What to Expect: 14 Tips for Your First Year as a Collegiate Student-Athlete
As an athlete, let your actions speak louder than your words! College coaches make a million promises during the recruiting process, understand it won’t be as easy for you as they’ve made it sound. There will be adjustments and tough times, but they brought you there for a reason and believe in you!
Some first year tips for your first year on campus…
#1- TIME MANAGEMENT will be the toughest obstacle off-the-field you experience when you arrive on campus. Between class, practice, homework, games, study hall, travel, meals, treatment, weight training, film review, position meetings and team meetings you will be scheduled down to the minute, basically from sun up to sun down. Having a social life is a major part of the entire college experience and an aspect of your life that will have time limits, especially your freshman year while you are learning to balance everything. You need to prioritize your tasks and have good time management skills in order to manage and enjoy it all. Eliminating drama is a key part of time management!
#2- HAVE A GREAT ATTITUDE, be someone that your teammates and coaches want to be around. Too many freshmen get frustrated and bitter too quickly over playing time issues – most often, even before pre-season camp is over. This is a process, enjoy the ride. Your freshman year will be over quick! It’s not about how quickly you start your career, but what you are able to accomplish over your entire career. Have a great attitude while developing during your first year as a collegiate athlete!
#3- BE ON TIME — better yet, show up 5-10 minutes early for all mandatory activities! Coaches are molding you to follow all instructions, so if you are late for class, practice, meetings, treatment or team travel, expect punishments. Punishments will only make your schedule even tighter, so it’s best to just be on time! In most programs, tardiness or unexcused absences are the reasons most freshman face internal punishments! BE ON TIME, coaches will be extra strict during your first semester on campus! Get an alarm clock, partner with your teammates to make sure everyone is awake and on the way to early workouts. Even if you are going to be just a few minutes late—call or text your coaches to let them know that you are on the way.
#4- UNDERSTAND THERE ARE OPPORTUNITIES EVERY DAY! Practice is your biggest opportunity, along with understanding the playbook, film review, position meetings. Learn the system and develop your position skills—and don’t feel overlooked if you aren’t starting or playing a ton of minutes (or at all) yet. Get an advantage with the Xs and Os. Learn to do things your head coach’s way! Rather focusing just on playing time and stats, focus on EVERY opportunity you have to showcase your skills.
#5- THE FILM DOESN’T LIE, let it be a great reflection of your skills, speed and maturity. Coaches watch how you behave on the sideline—be about business when at practice and meetings, even if you are on the sideline or third-string. Coaches watch everyone, all the time, and how you behave when you think they aren’t watching does play a role in their overall picture of your maturity.
#6- DO THE DIRTY WORK OTHERS WON’T. Rebounds, blocking, helping set the play up, etc. Players worry about stats, starts and how many touches they get—what can you do without the ball in your hand to help the team? Ask your coaches! If you aren’t playing, always have a positive energy on the sideline and be your team’s biggest cheerleader. There are always ways you can help your team—be a positive force any way that you can.
#7- GET THE CELL PHONE NUMBERS of your position coach, head coach, Director of Operations, trainer, academic advisor, strength coach, sports information contact and grad assistants. Chances are, something urgent will come up during your first weeks on campus and you will need to get ahold of someone on staff after hours. Know how to get ahold of key staff quickly.
#8- PREPARE YOURSELF TO BE CHALLENGED MORE THAN YOU EVER HAVE BEEN IN YOUR ENTIRE ATHLETIC CAREER. Many freshman come in with high expectations, confidence, big personal goals and anxiety about playing time and starting jobs. As long as you understand that you will likely be challenged more than you ever have before, that it WON’T be as easy as you think it will be and that greatness is a process—don’t be so hard on yourself. Enjoy your freshman year, learn as much as you can, give yourself every advantage you can by preparing and eliminating distractions—and have fun! Don’t spend your whole freshman year beating yourself up and complaining about a lack of playing time! Remember, it’s not about how fast you become a starter, it’s what you accomplish over your career that matters most! Give yourself time to develop and adjust to the college game! In terms of playing time, coaches would rather get it one week late than one week early and may hold off playing you until they are sure you are ready for it.
#9- GET TO KNOW ATHLETES PLAYING OTHER SPORTS AND REGULAR STUDENTS IN YOUR CLASSES AND DORM. Support the other sports, show up at games and cheer on your classmates who are competing in home matches. Get to know the regular students in your dorm and classes, it’s good to have a well-rounded college experience and that includes having different circles of friends outside of your teammates.
#10- STAY ON CAMPUS during the weekends and off days, especially during the first month of college. Life-long friendships are built at college and many of those are formed the first few weeks or months of school. Don’t leave at every opportunity to go home and visit friends and family, even if you feel homesick and unattached to your new home. It takes time to build friendships, and it’s best to be around those first few weeks while everyone is getting to know each other! Most other students are coming to campus with few or no friends too, you won’t be the only one who doesn’t know anyone yet.
#11- THE DINING HALL and its all-you-can-eat buffets can help or hurt your nutrition! Stay away from fried foods, pizza, processed meats, soda, sugar drinks, desserts, sugar cereals and try to eat more lean meats, veggies, salads and fruit. Although it’s all-you-can-eat, if you are on a calorie-restricted diet, make sure to keep your meals in moderation. If you have a team nutritionist, talk to them about what are some good food choices to make and what serving sizes are healthy for you. Make sure to drink plenty of water, sports drinks and juice between practices and throughout the day to stay hydrated for practice.
#12- IF YOU ARE ON A CALORIE-RESTRICTED DIET, make sure to avoid late night fast food meals that tempt every college student. Fried foods, pizza and late night snacks are all-too-available and can easily pack on the pounds!
#13- SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE TEAMMATES. As a freshman with few friends, choose your circle carefully. You don’t want a negative roommate/teammate to get you involved in activities you wouldn’t normally get involved in, and you don’t want to be surrounded by negative energy. Players who complain, make excuses and whine with every step have a tendency to drag down other teammates with them, and your coaches will pick up quickly which players are approaching the experience with a positive attitude and who is constantly being negative. Keep your distance and find more positive and happy teammates to hang around with.
#14- CAMPUS POLICE and your coaches are going to be watching freshman closely, in terms of underage drinking. Several students are normally arrested or cited during the first few weeks at school for underage drinking, DUIs or public intoxication. Understand that the police are LOOKING extra hard those first few weeks of school for underage drinkers! You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot with your coaches and the Athletic Department, they have established relationships with the campus and city police so your coaches will be alerted of any problems immediately. Along with fights, non-athletic injuries, misunderstandings and hangovers, alcohol is a major reason freshmen face discipline during their first semester at college.