As a high school athlete, you might have had a dream since you were younger that you want to make it and play in college at some level whether that is D1, D2, etc. All of the hard work you’ve put in to be good in high school and to have the chance to go on and keep playing is something that many kids want. However, not everyone is built to be a college athlete and that is fine. You may have gotten burnt out of playing sports or your interest have changed and that is fine. Life is all about choices, and when you ultimately make that choice to play in college you should truly know the good and the tougher parts before going into it.
The biggest thing you have to realize is the time commitment that being a college athlete takes. During the season, your schedule is so routine and almost every minute of your day there is something that you have to do. You wake up, go to class, and then you have weights and practice. After that you have to eat and then you might have another class or you have to go to study tables. By the time you get through with all that you might have a little time to relax and then it’s time to go to bed and do it all over again. You are doing this for weeks and months at a time and it can be hard if you’re not used to it. You’re going to miss out on things and have to sacrifice a lot because not only do you have to perform well in your sport, but you also have to perform well in the classroom. You still get to go out and hang with friends, but you’re not going to be doing it as much as a regular college student will be able to. You have to realize you are going to miss class due to traveling and at first you think, "Hey that's great!" because I don’t have to go to class, but the reality is that it hurts more than it helps. The material they cover in college moves so quick and it is easy to get behind because you have to push things back and the work seems to pile up so quickly. But you will have help to get through it! On the bright side you will have help to get through it! Teachers are also understanding as long as you tell them in advance. At the end of the day, people in college want to see you succeed and graduate, not fail!
You also have to realize you’re going to miss out on some holidays and breaks with family. With basketball, our season was basically two semesters. During my senior year we went to a tournament in Jamaica over Thanksgiving break and while I would do that 10/10 times, we got back in the afternoon on Thanksgiving Day and had practice the next morning. Therefore, if you didn’t live close to school you couldn’t have Thanksgiving with your family. At Miami we also had a 6-week winter break, however we only got 4 days off for Christmas and then we were back at school the rest of the time practicing and playing while everyone else was at home. For me, J Term was one of the best times of year because all we had was basketball and no school and it was a good time to hang out with all of my teammates. Because you hope to be playing in March and in the tournament, you most likely won’t get a spring break. This is okay though because it means you are still in season! You also only get 6 weeks off for summer break due to summer school and workouts. You might not be able to do that internship you wanted to do or take that summer job but all of that is okay. These are just some things you have to go in knowing if you’re going to be an athlete in college.
Another area that you don’t really worry about in high school, but you do in college is taking care of your body. The amount of volume that your body endures is so much more than what you had to do in high school. Due to the intensity that your coaches are going to expect out of you in weights, and practice your body is not really accustomed to that. Making sure that you eat right, stretch, receive important treatment, take ice baths, and most importantly get enough sleep! If you don’t do those things your body is not going to be as good as it could be towards the end of the year. Late in the season a lot of guys would say their body hurt but that would mean maybe having to wake up early to go see the trainer or go to physical therapy. However, it’s all about sacrifice, and but by taking care of your body, it will pay off tenfold down the line and improve your performance.
There’s also going to be tough times where you’re going to have to wake up at 5am multiple times a week to do workouts. You’re not going to want to practice sometimes because you don’t feel well, or something happened to you that didn’t go your way. Coaches will yell at you might not be play the amount of time you thought you would right away. This happens to the best of them. Furthermore, you have to be mentally strong enough to push through. Don’t complain! It’s what you signed up for and instead of looking at it negatively, look at it positively.Think to yourself, even though coach is making us run extra, that just means I’m getting in better shape. Yea I have to wake up early for a workout, but now I can start my day earlier and get things done and be productive! It’s all about finding a way to get better and working hard at all times.
But there is another side to all of this and that is the joy of being a college athlete that makes everything you go through worth it! I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything in the world and would choose being an athlete in college every time over just being a regular student. You build lifelong friendships and build a bond that not many people get to experience. That bond develops through all the early mornings, the tough practices, the amazing wins, and devastating losses. You come together and learn to trust the people around you through the good and bad times. Your teammates are the people you do almost everything with from class, workouts, eating, and going out with. You look out for each other and don’t let outsiders come in between you guys. You’re a family and that is something you will have for the rest of your life. You also get a lot of recognition and respect from the community and other people around you. They know how much time you have to put into being a college athlete and that you’ve sacrificed a lot to get to this point. It’s always good hearing people in class say. "we’re coming to the game tonight" or to be out and people say "good game." You have a lot of eyes on you, so you want to be a good example to little kids and people that look up to you and make sure you’re doing good. It’s also good to have the opportunities to give back and help others and when there’s not many feelings better than when we would go out and help others. There's not a better feeling and bring a smile to their face and see that it’s bigger than us.
You also have a chance to travel the world and country. In college we played in Cancun, Jamaica, New York, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina and many other places. I’ve seen things I wouldn’t have been able to if not for basketball! You get to stay in nice hotels, eat out, and there is nothing like getting victories on the road!
Team in Jamaica at breakfast
I think the best thing about being a college athlete is the skills that you learn from it. I learned the importance of time management and how to balance and prioritize things in my day so that I wasn’t wasting time and having to scramble at the last minute. That is something that will help you for the rest of your life with any job that you do. You learn how to work together as a team and learn how to work with different types of people. Employers love student athletes for this exact reason because jobs rely more and more on collaboration and they understand the value that you bring. You also find out what you are made of. You are pushed to a whole different level and learn that you can go past your limits that you thought you never had. You realize you can do a lot more than you thought and that develops a level a mental toughness that you won’t have unless you’ve been put through the fire. I wish I would have realized this earlier, but the mental aspect is just as important if not more important as the physical. The quicker you can gain control of your mind and thoughts and how you think about tough situations, the better you will be in the long run.
I am very grateful that God blessed me with the talents and opportunity to go play in college and now professionally. I will definitely learn from some of the mistakes I made in college and the lessons I learned and carry that into my professional basketball career. I hope this helps for kids looking at playing in college and I hope everyone that has the dream to play in college gets the opportunity at whatever level!