Take it from a 4-year D1 athlete: the benefits of playing college sports go far beyond the playing field. SKLZ Intern Darren Weber explains:
I've been an athlete my entire life, ever since I was a little kid. I worked hard with my club soccer team to mold myself into a college athlete and eventually earn a college scholarship. When it came time to go to college, I knew I had done my due diligence and earned the right to play college soccer. But I faced a common dilemma. I was uneasy about how I was going to balance my academics, athletics and social life. I didn't want soccer to completely dominate my college life. College is a grand and unique experience, unlike anything else and I wanted to experience everything it had to offer.
Despite my reservations, I am hopelessly devoted to soccer, for more reasons than just the game itself, and could not live without it . I played for all four years at the division 1 level and if I could go back and do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing. Here's why I'm glad I played.
1. Building Lifelong Friendships
If you're an athlete, then you know that the bond between teammates is for life. It can be scary joining a new team, not knowing what to expect, but you have to make it your own! You just have to embrace the chaos and accept the uncertainty. This is your new family for the next four or five years. When it comes down to it, your teammates will be there for you no matter what. You spend countless hours together at practices, games, on the bus, in hotels on the road and in the gym. They know you inside and out. The memories you make with your teammates turn into lifelong friendships that no one can ever take away from you. Remember: you can always count on your teammates.
2. Finding Mentors
Your coach will become your parent over your four or five years at college. Sure, they may yell more often than your real parents and push you to get you to perform at your best even when you feel like giving up, but deep down your coach only yells at you because he cares about you. Your coach is someone you can turn to when times get tough. If you're ever having a bad day or having trouble managing a busy schedule, your coach will open his doors to you. It's nice to have that comfort when you're figuring things out on your own for the first time.
3. Learning Time Management
As I mentioned earlier, I was worried that I wouldn't have time to get all my school work done while also juggling practice, games, lifting and film sessions, meetings, etc. To my surprise, I found that all the components that were supposedly "cluttering" my life were actually keeping my life running smoothly. Maintaining a full and structured schedule forced me to get my work done. There was no time to dawdle and procrastinate! I had certain hours dedicated to getting work done. Essentially, I have sports to thank for teaching me the importance of time management.
One of my favorite things about playing college sports was the road trips. No matter which level or conference you decide to play in, road trips are part of the deal and so are the unforgettable memories that you make along the way. You get the unique opportunity to travel, to compete against another school and check out other universities all over the country. This is truly a rare college experience that many students will never have the privilege to enjoy.
5. Building a Social Circle
You'll find that being an athlete is an easy conversation starter at social events and in your classes. Lots of people know who you are before you've even met them because they follow your stats in the school newspaper or they saw you play in the cross-town rivalry game. It's a good feeling to be known on campus and to know that your fellow classmates are rooting for your success.
6. Staying in Great Shape
Unfortunately you will notice lots of college students struggling to fend off the freshman 15. You're away from home, you've got new friends and you're beginning a new life. Naturally, you will want to go out and meet people, so gym time becomes limited. However, if you play a sport, there is no getting around gym time each day. It is vital to your success as a student-athlete. Your sport will help you manage your time wisely (much like with your schoolwork). Last but no less important, working out boosts your energy levels. Not only are you maintaining a healthy lifestyle, your mood will benefit too.
7. Building a Network
College professors, counselors and parents will tell you to network until they are blue in the face. Listen to them! Networking is an incredibly important skill to develop to enhance your professional career. Networking starts with your classmates. You may potentially be business contacts for one another at some point. And, since you chose to play sports in college, you've just broadened your network. You can now draw from a whole new pool of professional contacts in the other student-athletes you will meet over the course of your college career. Your coaches become contacts for life. Your coaches contacts can potentially become your contacts at some point. Being a student-athlete opens doors for you that may not be available otherwise.
8. Developing Professional Attributes
You've worked hard at your sport all your life. You've given your blood, your sweat and your tears. Along the way, you've no doubt picked up an arsenal of widely sought after professional attributes suitable for the workplace. For instance, you've demonstrated that you are hard working, determined, driven and intrinsically motivated. You are not lazy. You understand the meaning of work ethic. You understand the meaning of resilience and perseverance. Above all, you understand and respect how difficult it is to achieve success. What sets you apart, however, is that you've undoubtedly hurdled adversity at some point and know what it takes to win. You are a champion in your own right and one day, when the prime of your athletic career has come and gone, you are well prepared to apply those characteristics to every other aspect of your life. You are well equipped to be successful in any of your endeavors and you have sports to thank.
Darren Weber is a Marketing Intern at SKLZ and a Senior at USD. He is set to graduate in December with a BBA in Business Administration with an emphasis in marketing and finance. He played forward for the men's soccer team for 2 seasons after transferring from the University of Cincinnati where he played his first two college soccer seasons.