As a previous collegiate athlete and someone with experience coaching at the Division II level, I often get asked, "what should I expect for my first year of college sports?" Here is my answer - a whole other ball game. It's a dramatic difference from high school or club; it becomes your life and there is a much different level of commitment that typically shocks incoming freshman. Here are a few tips and things to expect your first year...
1. You were a big fish in a small pond
It's typical for freshmen to get a "reality check" when they first step on the field or court their first year. You become so accustomed to being an all-star in high school, that it's hard to remember when you first started. Here is the tip: don't expect it to be as easy as it was your senior year. The dedication and time you put into your last season preparing, double that -- no, better yet, triple it! College is a much more competitive game, and it's important that you realize you're in the ocean now, and everyone that you are playing with and against was probably an all-star in high school too. Be humble.
2. Know your role
Alright, this rule applies everywhere! I don't care what school you go to, or who your coach is, but freshmen are expected to always pull the short straw from the bunch. It is an unspoken law amongst athletes for rookies on the team. You will be expected to do the most of the grunt work (e.g. put the nets on the field, take them off, collect the balls, carry the equipment, house and entertain prospective athletes). It is what it is, but remember, it's only for one year! It's how you earn respect on your team, and how the upperclassmen will accept you. Tip: listen to your coaches and captain and don't sass them. Accept your role; everyone before you did it, it's just your turn.
3. Never let go of your confidence
This, in a way, goes along with the first tip. Even though you're not necessarily the all-star on the team anymore (notice the word necessarily, of course there are exceptions!), confidence is something that is always transferable. Remember, your coach scouted and recruited you because they wanted your skills, attitude, drive and passion on their team! Trust me, coaches don't recruit players they don't admire. It's not worth their time. For a coach or team that is interested in you, actively recruiting you involves a lot of time and money to get you to commit. Trust the process and realize you are talented if you are being recruited, and know that your coach has recruited you based on who you are today. Continue to always better yourself, but remain positive about your abilities! This can be easier said then done, especially when you don't see a lot (or any) playing time your first year. If you don't give up on yourself, it will be hard for your coach to give up on you too.
4. Have fun
College sports offer an amazing opportunity to meet new people who you will share the college experience with. It is a group of instant friends. Embrace that opportunity! You will be spending a lot of time with your teammates, so you might as well like them and learn how to make the time go by with a meaningful purpose. Always do overnight visits to schools you are highly considering. This is a great opportunity to gauge whether you will get along with the group that is already established and to see if you feel comfortable. Teams that are successful on the field are generally close off the field as well.
College is a great experience, and being able to play a sport is a huge bonus. About 1-2% of high school athletes continue to play in college. If you are provided this opportunity, embrace it and gain everything you can from it. Stay positive, work hard, and reap all the benefits that come from it!
I hope this article was insightful and helpful to some of you who are curious about the college process and what to expect! Feel free to message me with questions or comments, I always welcome feedback!