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Should I Play Sports in College?

American College Football and play diagram on a chalkboard. Top view with copy space.

Playing sports in college can feel very prestigious. When thinking of college sports, most people imagine packed stadiums and screaming crowds in a beloved college town. But the movies never show the grueling practices or the bitter losses that the team might face.

I thought playing sports during college was the easiest and best decision for me because I couldn’t imagine losing the feeling of euphoria playing sports gave me. I had been playing for so long I couldn’t imagine what my life would look like not playing. Although my decision was easy, I still had a lot to think about when choosing which team was the best fit for me. So, I have compiled some things that I highly suggest you consider or seek advice on before deciding “Should I play sports in college?”

Dealing with Recruiting Coaches

I found recruitment to be very overwhelming. I mean, who would have ever thought there would be coaches from schools hundreds of miles away that I had never heard of contacting me to play on their team. It was hard for me to sort through the rush of emails I had coming into my inbox. Recruitment is probably going to start around your junior year of high school, so here are some ways I found to deal with the emails and use them to your advantage:

Reply to the coaches of the schools you are interested in so they know they have caught your attention. They aren’t going to keep contacting you if they think you aren’t interested, so you need to establish a relationship with them early on!

Going on recruiting visits is a fun and exciting way to experience what being on a college sports team would look like. I went on two overnight recruiting visits and made my decision based on who I felt the most comfortable around. These visits let you get to know the people on the team and ask them questions about campus life.

Also, remember that these coaches are trying to recruit you to play on their sports team, so there is no need to be nervous. They already like you and think you are good enough to play on their team. Make this your mantra. I had to keep telling myself this because talking to the coaches and having them watch me play always made me so nervous.

Looking at the (Potential) Benefits of College Athletics

Different schools mean different benefits. At one school, you may have a better meal plan or better housing options than regular students do, but that may not be the same at another. The school I chose didn’t offer these benefits to me, so it is important to do your research and ask the coaches about what the college will offer you as an athlete. If you are looking to play at a DI, DII, or NAIA school, they may offer you an athletic scholarship. This will cut down on your out-of-pocket cost for tuition, room, and board.

Here are some questions you should ask the school and coaches:

  • Meal plans. Do athletes have access to different dining halls? Some bigger schools have different types of dining halls for athletes, and being able to picture what your dining hall experience is going to be like could help you in your decision-making.
  • Housing. Is there an athletic dorm on campus? This is an important question because some schools require athletes to live in athletic dorms for a certain amount of time to bond with their teammates.
  • Scholarships. Does this school give out athletic scholarships? You need to know this ahead of time to plan financially, and how exciting would it be if that answer is yes??

Time Flies, Can You Keep Up?

You also need to consider the time commitment playing a sport in college is going to require of you. Factoring in practices, workouts, games, and your schoolwork can be a little overwhelming. Learning to manage your time wisely is very important when playing a sport during college.

You also won’t have as much time for a social life. If you love hanging out with your friends all day, playing a sport might make that a bit more difficult. I had a really hard time freshman year learning to manage my time wisely. It was hard for me to schedule time to do my school work and hang out with my friends.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself about time management:

  • Do you want most of your day to be taken up by practices, workouts, and games? Is this something that excites you or makes you nervous?
  • Are you going to be able to get all of your schoolwork done in between classes and practices? How are you going to block out your time?
  • Are you worried about making friends outside of your sports team? Is having an exciting social life something that is important to you?

Have You Considered Playing Intramural Sports?

If you love the game, but not the commitment, maybe you should consider playing club or intramural sports instead. I’ve played intramural sports hosted by Greek Life a couple of times and had so much fun doing it. The competition was intense enough to make it fun but there was no pressure put on me by my teammates.

I think it depends on the school you attend, but the intramural sports I have played didn’t hold practice. I just showed up to the game and played with my friends. Club and intramural sports are most often run by students and are less of a time commitment. Lots of people who aren't looking for their college life to be led by their sport choose to play in clubs or intramurals.

Personally, I enjoyed playing a college sport because I loved my teammates and was excited to play at a higher level. I loved the competition and the drive it gave me. If that is something that excites you too, maybe you should think about playing for the school you choose. Maybe soon you will hear crowds of your classmates cheering you and your team onto victory!

Maggie is an editorial intern at Potential magazine and a senior English major at Birmingham Southern College. She enjoys reading and writing articles and blogs and is excited to share some of her college experiences with Potential readers.

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