The option to play sports in college is presented to many top student athletes. For some, the decision is easy, but for others, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of playing at the collegiate level can prove a daunting task.
Some of our fellow Pres girls have already gone through this process and were able to share why they chose their current path and what they have gained in doing so.
Both Kiana McCaul and Gabby Forbes of the Varsity Softball team knew from a young age that it was their dream to play at the collegiate level. They credit much of their success to support from friends, family, and teammates, and inspiration from coaches and role models over the years.
“My parents always told me they would support me wherever I wanted to go to school, no matter the circumstances,” McCaul said, who committed to Columbia University in early August.
Student athletes can find support everywhere they look, but it doesn’t make the process of finding the perfect academic and athletic match any easier. There are thousands of universities to choose from, and Forbes notes the importance of narrowing your own preferences first.
As soon as you know what you want in a school, the next step is to start approaching coaches and making your name known–the earlier the better.
Forbes and McCaul both stated the importance of national tournaments in their recruitment processes. This is where college coaches get to see high school players in person, and can often be the deciding recruitment factor.
“Before I even made it to third base, the coach had called the head of my organization on the phone and said she wanted me,” Forbes said about her own experience committing to CSU Monterey Bay.
Once a school and a player match up, the process is quite simple. Many schools can do an early read with the Admissions Office to make sure the school is an academic match. After that, the Athletic Department can “flag” an athlete’s application so that Admissions knows they are committed.
The next step is an official visit where the athlete stays on campus for a few days with a current member of the team. They get to go to classes and meet the team and see what college life is like. This visit helps the player make sure that this is the school they want to spend the next four years at.
One especially nice perk for committed student athletes is that they only have one application to fill out. “I feel like there has been a huge weight lifted off my shoulders,” Forbes said. “Now I know I can get back to just playing the game because I love it.”
Financial aid, priority housing, and early registration are a few more perks that can come with committing, not to mention the instant friends made from teammates and the structure sports can bring to the hectic college life.
“For me, softball has always provided an escape from academic pressure. I feel as though I need a balance of both to succeed,” McCaul said.
As amazing as all that sounds, there are some drawbacks to playing collegiate sports, and some athletes decide it is not the path for them.
Ellen Evans and Kaitlyn Poncetta from the Varsity Volleyball team both agree that playing a sport helped them in many ways during high school, but both made the decision not to pursue a collegiate career.
“I wanted to pursue other things. I’ve given up a lot to play volleyball, so in college I hope to explore other interests,” Poncetta said. This a sentiment she shares with many.
Student athletes dedicate an immense amount of time to their sport. Often this can take away from opportunities to try new experiences, join groups or volunteer in the community. College is supposed to be the time when students discover what they want to do for the rest of their lives, and sports can be a hindrance to that discovery.
Evans and Poncetta note travel, volunteer opportunities, extracurricular groups, and work as some of the experiences they hope to get with all the extra time.
They will miss the bond of a team and having a reason to work out, but they don’t plan on giving up volleyball completely. All colleges have intramural and club sports for athletes interested in playing at a less intense level.
Something else to consider is that athletes always face the possibility of injury or other complications. So, when making the decision about whether or not to play a sport in college, the most important thing is to choose a school that would be perfect even without sports.
Evans’ best words of advice? “Go to the school for the school, not for the sport.”
In the end, the decision is entirely up to the athlete. “If this is your dream, if this is what you really want to do, do it,” Forbes said. “There are always going to be people who will try to bring you down and stop you from getting where you want to be, there are always going to be people who doubt your abilities, but it should never stop you from trying.”