Recruiting column: The real benefits of playing college sports

USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where 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 delivers an online recruiting game plan unique to athletes of all talent levels and ages.


The relationships formed while playing college sports may be the most important benefit of all.

Here is a quote from a former college athlete when asked “what was the best part of playing college sports?”  His answer? “Everything is the best part, it’s AWESOME…the players, coaches and trainers all working together every day for one goal, pushing each other and working through good times and bad times.  We will be friends for life.”  In one sentence he covered everything I need to cover in this article – teamwork, discipline, confidence, hard work, mental toughness, leadership and perhaps at the top of the list, the relationships that are established. The intangible advantages of playing college sports may well outweigh the obvious benefit of a college scholarship. Let’s face it; a very small percentage of college athletes go on to play professionally. Given that, it’s important to know the role college athletes can play in the “real world.”

Future Employers Look for Intangibles

Prospective employers are looking for employees who go the extra mile. Participating in college sports is viewed similarly to other extracurricular activities such as being involved in student government, volunteering for charitable organizations, or even working part time. Balancing the hours of practice and games while going to college is difficult, and it is an indication of a student’s work ethic. 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 working world.

Many businesses are focused on providing a team environment in the workplace, as evidenced by the discussion of the importance of teamwork in numerous publications like the Harvard Business Review. In fact, some companies have said that they look specifically to hire former athletes, because of their ability to work as a team. The majority of former student-athletes say that being part of a team while participating in college sports prepared them for life after graduation.

Life lessons learned

What are the life lessons learned by most college athletes? The list is long, but it certainly includes teamwork, 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. Let’s be honest; playing college sports is like having a job while you are going to school. It is a commitment. You have to be disciplined and work hard or you won’t make the grades necessary to stay eligible. Also, 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.

The Relationships

At the top of the list of benefits from playing college sports are the relationships established while being a part of a team.  I had a conversation last year with a medical supplies salesman from Tucson, Arizona who played Division III football 23 years ago. He has a son and a daughter both with a desire to play their sport in college.  He is really working hard to help them realize their dream.  Why?  Because he says 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.  He decided to host a dinner of former teammates to “love on his roommate.”  He sent invitations and hoped at least a few of the guys could come.  Fifty-three 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.” If you are lucky enough to have the God-given talent to play intercollegiate sports, don’t miss out on the opportunity.

f you have specific questions about the college recruiting process you would like us to cover, send an email with your questions to



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