Are College Sports Right For You?

Are you currently an active participant in high school sports and considering continuing your athletic career into college?  How much research have you done regarding your athletic future?

If your answer is little or none, you may want to get started.  Being a collegiate athlete is a huge undertaking; it requires dedication, persistence, and a competitive drive to succeed that not everyone possesses.  As difficult as participation in athletics during your college years may sound, it has also been an overwhelmingly positive experience for those who partake.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) conducted studies to find the feasibility of a high school athlete having success in collegiate athletics, and even onto the pros.  Here’s what they found: of nearly three million high school athletes in the US, only ~183,000 or 6.1% made it to NCAA competition.  Of the 6.1% of NCAA athletes, a measly 2.6% continued on to the big leagues.  That’s some stiff competition if you ask me.

To get an inside perspective of what the commitment of a typical NCAA athlete entails, I recently interviewed Tess Alekna, a Boston native who traveled to the west coast to pursue her dream of being a collegiate athlete.  She played lacrosse for four years while attending UC Davis and while she says it was the hardest thing she’s done, it was also the most gratifying.

How did you decide to become a college athlete?

I’ve wanted to play sports in college my whole life, but wasn’t sure which sport I wanted to pursue.  In high school, I quit playing hockey competitively to focus on my future as a collegiate lacrosse player.

How do you think your athletic career in college changed your college experience?  Do you foresee it having a long-lived influence?

It definitely affected my college experience because I was on a very strict and disciplined schedule.  I was not allowed to participate in many activities that my non-athlete peers were allowed to.  Lacrosse required me to maintain a minimum GPA, which forced me to spend more time on academics.  I was also held to a higher standard at all times (on and off the field) because I was representing my school.

It also affected my personal relationships because I spent so much time with my teammates working towards a common goal.  You go through lots of ups and downs with a small group of people, and that makes your bonds a lot closer.  I learned a lot of lessons regarding discipline, hard work and leadership that will carry with me my whole life.

Did you ever feel like your participation in sports was too overwhelming and crave a “normal” college lifestyle?  How did you cope with these feelings?

Of course, but I think the thing I am most proud of is sticking through those hard times and continuing my athletic career.  It was hard to be constantly surrounded by students who didn’t have any schedule restraints.  I envied their freedom, but that’s also how I learned self-discipline.  So in retrospect, I appreciate it.

It was comforting to spend time with other student athletes who had a similar lifestyle as me.  Sometimes I just had to keep telling myself that being on the lacrosse team was what I wanted, and I would regret giving up.

What are some tips to balancing time between school, athletics, and social activities?

Writing out your schedule, due dates for your school assignments, and places you have to travel for your sport very far in advance was always a way I stayed organized.  Because of my busy lacrosse schedule, my social outings took a back seat to my sport and school obligations, but during the off-season or when I had extra time, I spent it doing nonstudent and non-athlete activities.

Thanks, Tess!

Thousands of high school seniors are waiting to get the call from recruiters, welcoming them to compete for their athletic program, but many students (even some of the very talented) won’t receive those calls.  The athleticaid.com website offers some tips to competing at the NCAA level…

  • Do your own research.  Do you know what schools you’re interested in competing for?  Or what level of competition you’d like to compete at?  A recruiter may try to persuade you, but these are questions only you can answer after careful thought and consideration.
  • Solicit yourself.  Even though it’s the recruiter’s job to find exceptionally talented athletes to invite to their program, still many students go unsigned.  It is your job to find the schools you’d be interested in playing for and contact their coaching staff.
  • Don’t delay.  Once you begin high school sports, the window of time for recruiting and committing to a school is short and fast approaching.  The longer you wait to decide your future, the less control you will have over the outcome.

College is an incomparable experience on its own, but the opportunity to be a teammate during college is a satisfaction few will sense.  Take it from Tess, it could be the best thing that ever happened to you!

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Heidi Meier

Heidi Meier

Heidi Meier is a junior at the University of California, Davis pursuing degrees in communication and psychology. At school, Heidi can be found participating in psychology experiments or lounging on the quad. Outside of school, she enjoys exploring new cities, adventuring with friends, and playing with her puppy, Pancake.
Heidi Meier

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