For student-athletes, the jump can be even more significant.
Here are five major differences between high school and college sports.
- Being a college athlete is like juggling two full-time jobs In-season D1 athletes devote up to 80 hours per week to athletics and academics. This includes early-morning lifting sessions, classes, afternoon practice, study halls and of course, games. While you should definitely branch out and befriend other students, only your teammates and other student-athletes will understand the what it’s like to balance the time commitment of college sports with the duties of a full-time student. To keep your head above water, you need to be incredibly passionate about your sport and develop strong time-management skills. Keep in mind—athletes who compete for D2, D3 or NAIA schools tend to have less demanding schedules and a little more free time.
- Your college teammates are your family. While joining the high school team can be a great way to make new friends, college sports take team bonding to another level. Athletes spend just about every waking—and sleeping—moment with their teammates. They room together, eat together, take classes together, sit in study halls together, work out together and go on spring break trips together. Your college teammates are much more than your friends—they are your family and your support system.
- College practices can be seriously intense. The jump from high school to college can be intimidating. Instead of competing against 17 and 18-year-olds, you’ll be squaring off against muscular 21 and 22-year-olds. Athletes are bigger, faster, stronger and more skilled. Some athletes respond to the college atmosphere with nerves, while others rise to the challenge. It’s all about how you respond. In high school, practices and even games can lack intensity. In college, mistakes and lack of concentration during practice can lead to extra laps and a spot on the bench. Everyone on the team is there because they’ve invested a ton of time and energy into the sport. No one is going to hand you a starting spot as an incoming freshman—you’ll have to fight for it.
- Traveling to away games can take several hours. In high school, most of your conference rivals are located within a few miles of each other. Travel to away games usually takes an hour or less. While it might require a longer bus or carpool ride to get to early-season competitions and state tournaments, most games are a short bus ride away. In college, teams in your conference will often be far away and beyond state lines. Travel times can often be as long as 6-8 hours. This can mean missed classes and weekends away from campus. While you can use this time to get homework done and study for tests, long hours sitting on a bus can be draining.
- Athletes are well-stocked with free gear How do you pick out athletes on a college campus? Look for the students decked out in team jackets, sweatpants and backpacks. College sports teams are sponsored by athletic sportswear companies, which means athletes are constantly getting free shoes, shirts, shorts and more.