Competing in college athletics is so many American kids’ childhood dream. Our society lives and breathes sports. College Football Student-Athletes have become household names…Baker Mayfield, Johnny “Football”, RG III, J.T. Barrett. I could go on and on. The perks and privilege of being a NCAA student-athlete are far and wide, but the truth of the matter is, there are some things I know now, that I wish I had known then, as it would have better prepared me.
You don’t need me to tell you that. You have experienced the like I am sure, in different facets of your life. But how can you know what possible negatives to expect for a circumstance in which you have yet to find yourself?! Enter: Elevate Athletics.
While I wouldn’t trade my college experience for any other, I believe I could save future college student-athletes some heartache by sharing the following information:
- Conflict isn’t always a bad thing. It is true! Any meaningful relationships we pursue are not without disagreement from time to time. For many, what makes family, family, is the ability to agree to disagree and yet still love one another. I strongly advocate you apply this mindset in other relationships. In close personal, as well as professional relationships, this ability to “agree to disagree’, is what I define as respect. Let’s face it: being around your teammates and coaches practically 24/7, there is bound to be a rough patch at some point. More often than not, conflict arises from miscommunication, both verbal and non-verbal. Whether it is a disagreement with a coach or friend/teammate, always assume the best, unless led to believe otherwise, and keep lines of communication open. If you can do that, you can turn a bleak situation into a win-win for both parties and create an even stronger relationship.
- Use your experience as a college student-athlete as a selling point. While some potential, future internship/co-op directors or even employers may turn up their nose toward “athletes”, I challenge you to change their mind! Use your title, “student-athlete”, to your advantage. For example, let’s say you are trying to land a summer internship within your field of study and the interviewer says something along the lines of…”I see from your resume that you spend most of your time playing “fill in your sport”, why should we select you when other applicants have more related experience?” What do you say?!?!?!?!?!?! “That is a valid point, Mr. Smith, however, I would like to point out that being a student-athlete requires excellent time management (balancing year round competition and academics) builds conflict resolution skills (living, competing and traveling with the same group of people 24/7…there is bound to be a disagreement), determination and great interpersonal skills (often times NCAA Division I programs recruit internationally and learning how to get along with people from different walks of life is crucial to success in the working world). I believe all of these traits would serve me well in this role, if given the opportunity.”
- Staying healthy is half the battle. Physically, but also mentally as well! The physical demands of a college athlete are second to only professionals. During my time at Baylor I did not know any student-athlete who remained 100% injury free during their collegiate career. Keeping up with PM (preventative maintenance) is required, if you plan to be successful. Stretching, warm-ups, cool-downs, strength work, ice baths, proper nutrition, adequate rest and recovery, etc. are little things that when completed consistently help you reap great rewards. Think of it this way : any time spent rehabbing an injury is more time your competitor has to gain an edge in training. Don’t take short cuts when it comes to staying healthy! Another perspective to consider: view your comeback as a victory in mental fortitude.
- Make NARPs your friends too! NARP = non-athletic regular person. 😝 I wish I had made NARPs sooner than I did (I say this tongue in cheek because my “NARP” friends, were actually quite athletic, but the idea is to make friends outside your team.) While I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with my teammates, it was refreshing to have a group of friends, where the conversation didn’t revolve around workout schedules, upcoming races and bowel movement habits. 🙉 Another advantage of having NARPs as friends, it makes your post-college transition to becoming a NARP that much easier. So much of a college student-athlete’s identity is wrapped up in his or her respective sport, and having a friend group whose sole focus isn’t athletics helps you realize your value as a person, not just an athletic label.
There it is my friends, 4 things I wish I would’ve known before Baylor.
*Photo cred: Natalia Liz Sternau