Shifting from High School to College: Considerations in Continuing Sports Participation

A high school student has been accepted for entrance into college. She is also a starting player for her high school soccer team. The student was not a scholarship recruited athlete, though several coaches did scout her during her senior year, including the head coach of the university where she was accepted. Though not offered an athletic scholarship, the student was invited to join the team when she arrived on campus. The student is enrolled in a vigorous academic major. The student is thinking about continuing her athletic career in college.

Here are some things the student may want to think about prior to continuing her athletic career:

  • The amount of time required to participate in sports. Besides competition and practice, the student-athlete also engages in continuous conditioning programs during the academic year, and at times, over the summer. Additionally, travelling at the intercollegiate level can entail long travel times, often over-night, sometimes during the academic week.
  • Amount of physical activity increases at the intercollegiate level. As mentioned above, physical conditioning entails strenuous exercise under supervision, with timed runs and targeted strength gain expectations. Without proper rest and recuperation, physical conditioning can leave the student-athlete tired and sore, and in extreme cases, developing a chronic injury from over-training. The student-athlete must get adequate rest, nutrition, and hydration in order to address recovery from physical conditioning.
  • Expectations by coaches are greater at the intercollegiate level. Winning, making progress in skill development, and adhering to team rules are just a few examples of how intercollegiate athletics’ expectations differ from high school.
  • Academic requirements at the collegiate level are much greater than high school. The student has much more expected of them in terms of class attendance, schoolwork, and intensity of academic courses. Additionally, if the student aspires to an advanced or professional degree, then maintaining high grade point averages is a must. In order to perform well in the classroom. While it is possible to have a high grade point average in a demanding major and play athletics at the same time, the student-athlete must manage their time very well and prioritize their goals in order to achieve both in the classroom and on the field or court.

A student contemplating continuing their high school athletic career into college should think about the considerations above, discuss them with their parents and high school coach, and carefully decide where athletic participation fits into their long-term goals as they enter college.

Timothy Neal, MS, AT, ATC, Assistant Professor, Concordia University Ann Arbor

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