It’s almost that time, time to enter one of the biggest, if not THE biggest transition of your life – Being a college athlete!
In case you haven’t heard, you are getting ready to embark on the 4 best years of your life. You are going to meet and make so many friends from all over the world, travel and compete with all new teammates, live away from your parents for the first time and learn what it is like to make your own decisions and choices about what you do every day.
While this all may sound like a blast now as an 18-year-old female, who probably feels mature, independent, and disciplined enough to conquer this transition like a champ, you might be surprised at how much you still have left to learn.
You are going to be a college athlete, which means you will be DIFFERENT from non-athletes. You will have different expectations. You will have different priorities. You will have different goals. You will have different demands.
Even though it has been a long time since I was a college athlete, I do still remember the feelings as a freshman and how overwhelming it can be at times. I was not a very confident, assertive person at that stage of my life so I really struggled with the transition. I was scared to ask questions, scared to talk to my professors, scared to speak up for myself, even scared to go to the dining hall by myself, afraid that I wouldn’t have anyone to sit with.
I managed to qualify for our first tournament (golf) that fall which meant I would be in Oregon for the first few days of classes. I was behind before I ever even had a chance to get started. I traveled all the events that fall and thankfully every tournament all 4 years so keeping up with my school work so that I could keep my academic aid, trying to have some social time and upholding my commitment to my coach and teammates was very tough at times. While many things have changed since my time as a college athlete there are still some “words of wisdom” that I wanted to share that still apply today.
- Speak up for yourself and be assertive but also remember that you are the “baby” of the school and among some of the best athletes in their sports as well, so you have A LOT to learn from everyone around you.
- Have fun and enjoy everything college has to offer, but NEVER be afraid to say “no” if you think something interferes with your priorities or morals.
- Be accepting and respectful of your teammates and others who may have different opinions, views, and values, but ALWAYS trust your gut and honor your beliefs.
- You aren’t going to know all of the answers so don’t even feel like you should. Ask for help. Seek guidance.
- You are probably going to feel overwhelmed more often than you are going to feel like you have things figured out. That’s ok. What is not ok is to ever give up or get discouraged.
- As a female athlete, you have one of the best platforms for being an example of strength, respect, and pride. Be the example. Be the leader. Be the exception.
- Honor your commitment to represent your school. Honor your commitment to be the athlete your coach expects. Honor your commitment to be a good teammate. Honor your commitment to always remain true to who you are!
Since it has been more years than I care to count since I first stepped foot on Furman University’s campus for freshman orientation, I also decided to ask some current and former college athletes what advice they have for an incoming freshman athlete.
“Number one piece of advice for an incoming freshman athlete is to not be afraid to assert yourself. Shaking hands is the most important part to meeting friends, professors, teammates, coaches, etc., and you never know what connections can be made in the future. The other piece of advice I have is that there is an opportunity to learn in every situation. Learn from teammates’ playing styles, learn from how your coaches make decisions, learn from how your upperclassmen lead the team; learning from and observing your surroundings will teach you things that you didn’t even know you needed to learn. And usually you can learn the most on bad days, and it makes you a better student athlete because of it!” – Jorie Hodapp
“Enjoy every single minute of being a college athlete.. cherish each round because they are numbered, 4 years truly do fly by!! And honestly just have fun playing the game that you love at this level.” Maddy McDanel
“As an athlete about to enter college I would tell them to love every second of it because it goes fast. But most importantly when you’re entering and starting a new chapter of your life it might be scary at first or overwhelming, but the best part of that is you always need to remember you have teammates and coaches that believe in you and have your back. Just remember it’s okay to ask for help, it’s okay to get frustrated, and it’s okay to have fun! But remember you’re there first for an education and second to play a sport you love. Work hard at whatever you choose, learn a lot from your teammates, and always be a team player, they will learn a lot from you. The good and bad times will come and if you’re ever facing a hard obstacle, never give up. You have come so far so keep pushing through and ultimately always believe in yourself! So strive to be the best you can in both your sport and education. Enjoy meeting new people and making life-long friends. Enjoy the ride because although it can be crazy it’s the best time of your life!” Bella Harris