Money to pay for a college education, travel, access to state of the art facilities and equipment, early class registration, reserved dining halls, free workout and game day gear, nicer than average dorms, esteemed reputation…I could go on and on. There are plenty of perks when it comes to being a college student-athlete.
What I wish was discussed a bit more was all the behind the scenes stuff – the stuff nobody talks about. The actual time commitment, the mental burnout, coping with injuries, losing your scholarship, unbelievable pressure and the like. Like anything in life, you have to take the bad with the good.
The commitment it takes to be successful at the NCAA Division I level is not for the faint of heart. It takes more than superior talent to make it in the big leagues. Physical, mental and emotional health ALL play a role in the most successful athletes’ careers.
Knowing what I know now, I wish someone would have helped prepare me for the mental and emotional changes that are inevitable at the Division I level. At Elevate Athletics it is a goal to help guide young athletes as they embark on this journey. That being said, read on for 6 questions every hopeful college athlete needs to consider.
1. If your sport dictated your life, would you be OK with that? If you think you devote a lot of time to your sport as a high school student-athlete, you ain’t seen nothing yet! Your social life will most likely consist of spending time with your fellow teammates and it is challenging to juggle academics with travel and related time commitments, although not impossible. My four years at Baylor, minus my last summer semester, consisted of morning practice, class, afternoon practice or weights, dinner/shower/study and repeat. Weekends were set aside to catch up on sleep and assignments, if we weren’t traveling for either cross country, indoor track or outdoor track. During the summers, I went home to Ohio, where I worked and ran and was in bed by 8pm every night because I was so tired. The workload, running-wise, was heaviest in the summer. 70 mile weeks were the norm. Not for everyone!
2. If you lost your athletic scholarship, would you still be content at the academic institution you chose? At the Division I level, coaches are permitted to grant multi-year athletic scholarships, but that is definitely not the norm. Most issue a one year scholarship with the possibility of renewal the following year. What if you have a sub-par freshman year and your coach cancels your scholarship for your sophomore year?! Will you have the funds to finance your education? Would you be content attending that school and not playing sports if it was due to a career ending injury? Questions to ponder!
3. Would you consider yourself a self-starter? Sure, most high performing athletes are, but expecting your coach to check in with you and hold your hand and pat you on the back…not gonna happen. Maybe if you’re the number one recruit in the nation. Otherwise…fat chance.
4. Are you able to celebrate others’ successes when you’re going through a tough time? I do not know one student-athlete whom I met at Baylor, who never battled an injury. The abuse your body endures at this level is second to none. At some time or another you will be on the sidelines while other teammates are setting records, can you handle that?
5. Do you handle stress well? Even though the NCAA is categorized as a “non-profit”, it is a business, and athletic directors run their teams as such. The pressure to perform is off the chart. I vividly remember running an outdoor 5K at University of Texas in Austin, and the coach of a team whose name I won’t mention was literally screaming at one of his girls every lap. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!” “YOU SHOULDN’T BE ALL THE WAY BACK HERE!!!” “YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME?!?!” Instances like this are only the tip of the iceberg. It’s like politics in Washington D.C., there is so much more than meets the eye.
6. Are you OK with no longer being the star of the show? Many high school student-athletes who are offered scholarships at the Division I level are the best in their respective home state. You put together all the best athletes from across the country and how do stand out anymore? You don’t. You have gone from big fish in little pond, to little fish in the ocean. Not to say you can’t work your way up the ladder, but don’t expect to come in as a freshman and expect others to worship the ground you walk on. In fact, do that and see the reaction you receive from upperclassmen on your team!
If you answered “yes” to all six questions, congratulations! You may have what it takes to be successful at the NCAA Division I level.
Lemme know your thoughts/comments/questions/concerns! I value your feedback.