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 and is the affordable solution to high-priced recruiting companies. Their technology-based recruiting software identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and their recruiting advisers provide a recruiting experience that is trusted by college coaches and backed by a money-back guarantee.
All high school athletes dream of playing in college. Initially, the idea of playing a sport professionally and the recognition of signing a National Letter of Intent are the main reasons, but there are so many other benefits of being a college athlete. In fact, the real benefits of playing college sports might be just as important as the accolades from your peers and the hope of playing a game for a living.
In addition to a college degree, the experience of participating in intercollegiate athletics teaches lessons that are invaluable, prepares the student-athlete for the working world, and establishes relationships that last a lifetime. Here are my top 4 “real” benefits of playing your sport in college.
1. The education
Whether you’re an athlete or not, the primary reason of going to college is to get a quality education and to prepare you for life after school. You need to find a college where the education you receive will set the stage for your career. Very few high school athletes ever play their sport professionally, so if being a professional athlete is your Plan A, then you must have a Plan B. The most logical Plan B is to finish your college degree and that will make finding a job when you graduate that much easier.
Additionally, an athletic scholarship can go a long way toward making college more affordable. The College Board in its most recent survey of college pricing, reported that a moderate college budget for an in-state public college for the 2017–2018 academic year averaged $25,290. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $50,900. With those numbers in mind, an athletic scholarship that pays part or all of the cost of college is great deal.
2. The life lessons learned
The list of life lessons learned by most college athletes is extremely long and it includes things like teamwork, leadership, work ethic, and time management. As freshmen, college athletes are thrown into a situation where they have to learn these traits almost immediately or they just won’t make it.
There is no better place to learn the skills of time management, selflessness and leadership than being a collegiate athlete. Also, winning with respect, losing with dignity and learning from both are lessons that last a lifetime. All of these life lessons will prepare you for the real world.
3. 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 in their first week on campus.
A student-athletes’ schedule includes class, homework, strength training, team meetings, conditioning, practice, travel and games. In addition, they need to find the time to eat, sleep and occasionally watch Sports Center. College athletes cram 25 hours into a 24-hour day. Any student that can pull all that off and maintain a good GPA is an excellent candidate for employment. For those reasons, most 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.
And finally, in today’s society athletes tend to be looked at as leaders. 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.
While it might be hard to argue that participating in 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 life after school.
4. The Relationships
At the top of my list of benefits of playing college sports are the relationships established while being part of a team. Many of your teammates will become lifelong friends. Here’s a story that best exemplifies that comment.
Several years ago, I had a conversation that I will never forget. A medical supplies salesman from Tucson, Arizona, who played Division III football 31 years ago called our Dallas office and wanted to talk about the college recruiting process for his children. He had two children who both had a desire to play their sport in college. He was dedicated to helping 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. Twenty years after they graduated, 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 spend an evening with 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 experiences in his life. They weren’t all best friends, but they had a connection. They were teammates.
Being a teammate creates a special bond. You won’t be best friends with every teammate, but you will be teammates forever.
Here’s the deal
If you have talent to play intercollegiate sports, don’t miss out on the opportunity. The benefits of playing in college are many and will pay big dividends the rest of your life.