What to think about if you are considering being a college athlete:
While I was at Rio H.S. I was lucky enough to run for the Raiders at a time when the track and cross-country teams experienced a lot of success. Once I graduated Rio I was fortunate enough to continue my running at the collegiate level.
For me, a lot of what went into my decision to ultimately run in a D-1 program at George Washington University was personal to me, but here are some of the things that I considered that I think apply to most every high school athlete thinking about continuing to compete in college.
1. How much do you like your sport? I love to run. I would run anyway for my mental health, and my general well-being. If you don’t love, love, love your sport – think twice because you are going to be doing about double the amount of workouts you did in high school.
2. How good are you at adapting? Your classes have to fit into a pretty small time slot. My team practices twice a day and lifts twice a week. The classes that I can take are limited by the fact that they have to coincide with those times of the day when I am not at practice. Sometimes this makes the classes that I can take very small in number. And as I move more into my major this is even more of a challenge.
3. Can you handle having a majority of your life devoted to the sport and a lack of free time? In a D-1 program I am required to check into study hall a minimum of twice a week. I am required to eat at the athlete cafeteria for at least one meal a day. While in some ways this is a great thing – lots of free food, in other ways it is very constricting.
4. How important are your outside interests? Going to GW in the middle of Washington, DC is an amazing experience. But I have to limit and prioritize the city, school, and touristy activities I can go to or partake in. Often, as an athlete you have to be in bed early for a meet or you are out of town on weekends for competition. You end up missing a lot of social and school events.
5. Can you function on limited sleep? Which brings us to sleep. As an athlete, sleeping is a must. After competing in a cross-country race my body needs to recover, and sleep is an important part of that. Sleep at college is generally a challenge, noisy dorms, roommates on different schedules, and early work outs all play a part.
6. How helpful would it be to have some financial help with paying your tuition? A lot of colleges are able to offer scholarships to athletes. Sometimes this will extend to covering books and housing.
7. Joining the Greek System or Going abroad: Depending on your coach and how competitive your programs are, these activities are often discouraged. If you don’t think it would be college without joining a fraternity or sorority – find out in advance how your program handles these activities.
All in all – Being a college athlete has been a great experience for me so far – but there is a lot to consider before you make this commitment. It is impossible to know what your first year at college will bring, but I hope this will help you to look at a potential athletic commitment with open eyes. Good Luck! Go Raiders!!