Every few months there are hundreds (is it not thousands?) of high school student-athletes that embark on their journey to continue playing their sports in college. There is excitement about starting a new athletic journey, seeing just how much their talent can develop, and finding out what can be accomplished. Being a student-athlete is a tremendous privilege, and it does come with some amazing perks. However, being a student-athlete is not for the faint of heart. “Student-athlete” means that you are a student who must manage your academic requirements and responsibilities, as well as an athlete who must manage your training, recovery and competition commitments.
Being a former student-athlete myself and working with countless student-athletes annually, I wanted to share some bits of information that could help high school student-athletes better prepare for college athletics.
- You committed to competing for the university (not the coach)
This is one of the biggest concerns that I hear from young student-athletes. It is true that the coach did recruit you to come to that university, but I would hope that the university selected was not solely because of the coach. Many student-athletes chose to come to a university because of a particular coach and were upset when that coach took another job before their collegiate eligibility concluded. These student-athletes often have feelings of regret or remorse after a coach leaves, and their position on the team now comes into question. During the recruiting process, no coach can guarantee that he/she will remain in that position throughout their tenure.
For these reasons, I encourage student-athletes interested in competing in college to consider a variety of topics when selecting an institution to attend. Please understand that a coach’s job is to coach, and you are not committing just to them but to the entire university. A coach is a professional and is free to leave the institution. Per the NCAA bylaws, there are restrictions on the ability of the student-athletes to transfer to other institutions. Coaches play a critical role in the overall experiences of the student-athletes but should not be the only factor in the selection of the university.
2. Your sport is now a 12-month requirement
Now that you’re a student-athlete at the collegiate level, gone are the days where your sport was a seasonal activity. A major adjustment that numerous student-athletes have a hard time adjusting to is the realization that participation in their sport is a year-round commitment (yes, even during the summer months when classes are not in session). It is no surprise that pre-season training, competition, and post-season are the key time periods that student-athletes focus on. However, at the collegiate level, after the season finally concludes and you have had a few weeks to get away from your sport, training begins all over again. Whether it’s early morning runs or afternoon weight room sessions, this cycle will repeat itself until the pre-season training gets into full gear. As a collegiate athlete, you have to be present when you feel like being there and more
3. Pay attention to what you post on social media
Social media is an area that has gotten numerous athletes in trouble. Before I go any further, I must emphasize this point: BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU POST ON SOCIAL MEDIA! BLOCKED ACCOUNTS DO NOT PREVENT THE DEPARTMENT FROM SEEING YOUR POSTS. Student-athletes will typically say, “My account is blocked so my coaches (or other department officials) can’t see my account.” Coaches and department officials have employed a variety of methods to monitor the social media accounts of their student-athletes, private or not. Posting pictures of under-aged drinking, hazing, and illegal activities are all examples of things that have gotten student-athletes in serious trouble. Besides the
4. Take your time to adjust to campus life
5. Learn how to ask for help
Asking for help has to be its own category because athletes typically have not done a great job at this. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of growth and maturity. Many athletes generally feel that they do not need to ask for help and can manage their situation without assistance. This sentiment cannot be further from the truth. If you are struggling with a course, health concerns, or mental health issues, seek the help! Each department usually has dedicated staff members to help student-athletes with specific challenges they might be dealing with. Student-athletes are not invincible and could use a helping hand from time to time. If you need help, ask for it. There is no shame in that. Everyone could use a helping hand.
These tips come directly from my dissertation research, which focused on the experiences of Black college athletics that played football and graduated from a Division 1 institution. Adjusting to life as student-athlete is a challenging transition for anyone and these tips are just the tip of the iceberg. If you have more questions or would like to have further discussions about this, please do not hesitate to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you.