Playing Sports in College vs. High School

Ah, high school. Some of us loved it, some of us loathed it. One thing that a large majority of high school students were apart of was athletics. In college, many students opt out of participating in their school's athletic programs. For the most part students will keep their love for sport alive through intramurals instead of playing for the A team. Many students who were good in high school feel as if they won’t measure up in college. Others only played a sport to look good on their applications. Even more, they just did it because their friends were doing it. So when college coaches expect a huge commitment, many students run for the hills.

I ran in high school and was recruited to run at Murray State. I was pretty good in high school, I went to state my Junior/Senior years, I won a conference title, broke a school record. It was solid.

Now that I am running for a D1 university, I would not consider myself to be nearly as good as I was in high school. The highly competitive atmosphere sets in on the first day of practice. For me and many other athletes, they go from being the star player on their team or even in their school, to fighting for a spot on the travel squad. So I decided to highlight the 10 differences between high school athletics and playing for your colleges A team.

  1. Time commitment - Maybe you had to stay late or come in early to lift. But I doubt you had two a-days like many of the sports at Murray do. If you walk through the halls to the locker room you will see signs for football encouraging them to eat an excessive amount of calories in order to survive what seems like 5 hours of workouts everyday. It’s craziness.

  2. Speaking of early- practice for many of the sports is at 6am. Everyday. If you need to see the trainer to be taped before practice, you better be able to get out of bed by 5am or you won’t make it to practice on time.

  3. And don’t worry if you’re late or miss practice - they have a punishment for you I guarantee. The coach will notice and talk to you about it. We have to do Jacob’s Ladder if we’re late for practice, and it’s hell.

  4. Study hall - Some of you may have had study hall as a class in high school. As athletes, all freshman are required to check into study hall for 6 hrs. a week. If your GPA drops below 3.0 at anytime after freshman year you will be given hours until you can bring your grades up. Needless to say many athletes never get out of study hall.

  5. Teammates - You may have been close with your teammates in high school, but you’re even closer to your college teammates. In addition to having practice together, you will most likely eat all three meals a day with at least one of your teammates, and you’ll live with at least one of your teammates, sometimes more. Teammates feel a lot more like family in college so there is also a lot more drama, but there is also a lot more support that what you had in high school.

  6. Scholarships - You didn't get paid to play sports in high school. Unless you were pro, which you probably weren’t. There is a lot more motivation for many of the athletes on the team to perform at their absolute best. Many college athletes are walk-ons and must prove themselves first to earn a scholarship. Those who were standouts in high school who were able to earn scholarships immediately also need to perform at their best in order to keep their award. IT's not uncommon for many college athletes to have terrible competition anxiety because of this.

  7. Pressure - I cried multiple times over sports in high school. But nothing compares to the extreme amount of pressure there is on your athletic performance in college. You are expected to be there for your team no matter what you are going through. In high school, if you were injured you could be benched, in college they’ll have you compete if they think you can make a difference in their conference standing. You need to learn to be mentally strong quickly to be successful at this level of athletics.

  8. Losing - When I lost in high school, my coach would pat me on the back and tell me how good I still did. In college, it’s quite different. The expectations are much higher. When we do not perform at the level the coaches want us to, we are told so. Sometimes the coaches will get angry with us, other times they will just be disappointed. Success is the expectation.

  9. Gear - We get free stuff. Shoes, shirts, uniforms, spandex, etc. My team is sponsored by Asics so everything we get is Asics brand. It’s pretty nice, but we have to do A LOT of fundraising to earn these things. So the next time you’re at a football game stop by and buy a hot dog. We would appreciate it.

  10. Travel - At first you may think that traveling is cool but we don’t actually get to hang out in the cities we travel to. Some days we will get on a bus at 4am because we didn’t have enough funds to stay in a hotel the night before. Also when we travel we miss class and although professors should excuse us, they do not have to. You’ll miss only driving 30 minutes to compete in high school. Traveling usually sucks.

In the end, I love running in college. Many other athletes will tell you the same thing. It is incredibly hard and time consuming, but in the end it all seems worth it. Also, I’m in the best shape of my life and can eat whatever I want. What’s not to love?