USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Fred Bastie, the owner and founder of Playced.com. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
At some point nearly every high school athlete dreams of playing in college. Initially, the scholarship money and recognition are the primary focus, but there are so many other benefits of being a college athlete. In fact, the intangible advantages of playing college sports might be just as important as the accolades from your peers and the obvious monetary benefit of a college scholarship.
The experience of participating in intercollegiate athletics opens doors to opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be available, prepares the student-athlete for the working world, and the relationships that are established along the way last a lifetime. This week let’s take a break from the “who, what, when, where and why” of college recruiting and instead talk about the other benefits of playing your sport in college. Here are my Top 3 other benefits of playing your sport in college.
1. The life lessons learned
What are the life lessons learned by most college athletes? The list is long, but it certainly includes teamwork, discipline, self-confidence, work ethic, and time management. Most college athletes are put into a situation where they have to learn these traits or they just won’t make it.
There is no better place to learn the skills of selflessness and leadership than on the playing field or court. Winning with respect, losing with dignity and learning from both are lessons that last a lifetime. While it might be hard to argue that sports has a direct correlation to higher incomes, promotions, and better jobs, there is no question that the leadership skills, development of teamwork, time management, and determination of many athletes surely help prepare them for the real world.
2. Many employers want to hire college athletes
Zig Ziglar once said, “There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs.” Every college athlete learns this lesson the hard way and it usually happens their freshman year. Let’s be honest: playing college sports is like having a job while you’re going to school. It is a commitment. You have to be disciplined, work hard and manage your time, or you won’t make the grades necessary to stay eligible. Student-athletes have many responsibilities including attending class, homework, strength training, conditioning, practice, travel and games. In addition, they have to find the time to eat and occasionally catch SportsCenter. Any student that can pull all that off and maintain a good GPA has to be an excellent candidate for employment.
More often than not prospective employers view participating in college sports similarly to other extracurricular activities such as student government, community activities, or even having a part time job. They associate college athletes with the traits they are looking for in prospective employees. They want hard-working leaders who put the team first and are goal-oriented. In fact, a large number of CEOs either played high school or college sports and they would prefer to hire a student-athlete, rather than a non-student-athlete.
Some companies have even said that they look specifically to hire former athletes because of their ability to work as a team. Generally, college athletes are good teammates and good teammates make good employees. The majority of former student-athletes say that being part of a team while participating in college sports prepared them for life after graduation.
Right or wrong, in today’s society athletes tend to be looked at as leaders. Many United States presidents participated in college athletics. To be a good leader you have to be confident, resilient, and a strong communicator. Many athletes tend to have those traits and they most likely know how to be a leader. Employers want to hire employees that have the potential to become leaders in their company.
3. The Relationships
At the top of the list of benefits from playing college sports are the relationships established while being part of a team. Many of your teammates will become lifelong friends and you will never forget your college teammates.
Several years ago I had a conversation that I will never forget. A medical supplies salesman from Tucson, Ariz., who played Division III football 25 years ago called the office and wanted to talk about the college recruiting process for his children. He has a son and a daughter who both had a desire to play their sport in college. He was really working hard to help them realize their dream. Why? Because playing college football was one of the best experiences in his life.
Here is the story he told me. Several years ago his college roommate (and teammate) was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and the prognosis was not good. He decided to host a dinner of former teammates to “love on his roommate.” He sent out invitations and hoped at least a few of the guys could come. Unbelievably, 53 teammates showed up for the dinner, with most of them flying in from their homes scattered all over the country. It was one of the most moving events in his life. They weren’t all best friends, but they had a connection. They were teammates.
Here’s the deal
If you are lucky enough to have the God-given talent to play intercollegiate sports, don’t miss out on the opportunity. The benefits of playing in college will pay big dividends the rest of your life.