A member of the
Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.
Virginia Athletic Council
Building Men & Women via Athletics©
By: Ashley Jones
If you are reading this, you probably just made the first big decision of your life. For starters might I say CONGRATULATIONS! You should be using this time to celebrate and revel in the excitement; after all, your hard work and dedication has paid off.
But in the midst of the joy, it is important to realize your life is changing within the next few months. So you cannot forget the necessary homework. You may cringe at the idea of homework before even getting to college, but this may be one of the most vital assignments at this point in your youth.
YOU'VE SIGNED YOUR LETTER; NOW WHAT?
Hopefully before you signed your letter of intent, you had full knowledge and understanding of the specifics within the contract. Some of you have agreed to be active, or are going to redshirt, or grayshirt for your first year. In the end it should be beneficial to having a wholesome college career.
It is necessary to differentiate your options as a student-athlete when coming into these new situations. Simply put, be prepared. Have a plan. If you are not quite sure where to start, then refer to these suggestions.
1. Remember your position, Student- athlete.
This may sound cliché, but at the end of the day, you are a student FIRST, and an athlete second. While you have to comply with your coaching staff make sure you make academics a priority, because in all honesty others may lose sight of that. Your education is the ticket to your future, and you must realize that. According to the NCAA, less than 2% of college athletes will go pro, so it cannot be stressed enough how essential it is to maintain your academics. Don’t strive to just make it by, but try to go above and beyond to excel. This will help you in the long run for a successful career outside of professional sports. Consider it this way: These four years need to be a sacrifice to prepare you for your fifth year, after college.
2. Inquire, Question, Ask!
Your coaching staff, and better yet the athletic department should be at your disposal, so take advantage. You will be curious about a lot of things, and some circumstances or terms may not be clear to you. If that is so, go to them and ask for clarification. In addition, ask about what the school has to offer you. You never want to find yourself constantly blindsided by a situation on campus, or feeling like you were sold short of the experience. Also review with them NCAA regulations with what is and is not acceptable as a student-athlete. Some things as simple as autographs, and receiving gifts are very small, yet common ways to end up facing an NCAA violation. Keep in mind your athletic staff should be more than willing to help you in any way they can. After all, they did recruit you.
3. Listen, and don’t limit yourself to one voice.
Without a doubt your coaching staff will probably be the most influential group on your campus, but don’t think that they are the only ones who have the right or the best advice. When making a decision or feeling like you are in jeopardy of making a sacrifice between academics and athletics, or you are struggling with something try to get outside opinions. Go to your parents and talk to them because nine times out of ten they will advise you for YOUR best interest, not what is beneficial for them. That’s not to say that coaches may do so, but your parents are always on your team 100%. You can also try talking to professors, or your high school coach. Just make sure you have a wholesome support system that will be honest and look out for your total well-being.
4. Don’t forget who helped you get here.
It’s natural to feel anxious and ready to work with an entirely new coaching staff, and learn the ins and outs of a new program, but don’t lose relationship with your high school support system. They are the ones who helped you reach your peak in potential, and built you into the athlete you are now. They believed in you way before any college coach did. Plus, keeping in touch has great benefits in the long run. I know from experience my high school was a great outlet for me once I got to college. The athletic director connected me with a few summer jobs, the boy’s basketball and football coaches gave me summer workouts, and the gym was always made accessible for me. They all wanted to see me succeed. Trust me they will not forget you, so don’t forget them.
5. Be Proactive and Prepare.
A lot of this is in your hands, so take charge in your decisions. When doing so keep your well-being in mind. You are going to take on a heavy amount of responsibility as you become more independent, so do all you can to avoid being overwhelmed. It can be natural to be taken aback by the amount of freedom you have, so plan accordingly. Choosing your classes will be very important. I am sure classes will be influenced by availability during the season, and majors are often chosen by what is the “easiest.” Try to avoid that at all costs, because as previously mentioned only about 2% of you will become pro. Major in something that you are passionate about learning, and a subject that will allow you to carry over into a feasible career. Challenge yourself. Believe me it’s better to over prepare, than be lost when Plan A does not go through. Have a Plan A, B, and C.
Just as I once heard from one of my high school teachers, “Those that fail to plan, plan to fail.”
So with that being said, have fun, work hard, play your game hard, and persevere in these next few years. Good luck!