Better Late than Never: Why Joining a Club Sport Junior Year Was a Great Decision

Freshman year of college is a whirlwind of adapting to a new home, new people and a new level of academic challenge. Walking through the activities fair is completely overwhelming, and it is nearly impossible to not sign up for way more clubs than you physically have the time to participate in. I had high aspirations for my extracurricular activities in my freshman year, but the academic demands of my major and the adjustment of living far from home took up most of my time. I ended up finding enough time in my schedule for only a few select activities to be involved in. 

 

 

When I began my sophomore year, I felt confident that I was ready to start getting more involved around campus. Something I had missed immensely during my freshman year was playing competitive soccer. The two activities I planned to pursue coming into the year were undergraduate research and club soccer. However, upon being accepted into my current research lab and realizing the demands of my new class schedule, I knew I would have to pass on one of them. Since research was directly connected to my graduate school aspirations, it had to be my priority. This turned out to be the right decision for me, but that didn’t change how much I missed playing soccer.

Nearing the end of that year, I was ready to accept that my club soccer career was over for good. Sports teams are perhaps the hardest groups to join late, and I’m sure this deters a lot of students from getting involved after freshman year. I knew how tight-knit a team could become after playing together for a few seasons, and I was afraid that I’d never be fully accepted into that kind of bond. If I had joined as a freshman it would have been different. Not only would my skills, fitness and confidence have been more intact, but trying out as a freshman is the normal way to do things. You get teased and initiated and become beloved as time passes, and the older girls pass judgment on your skills and whether or not they think you fit in. As a junior, it was weird. I feared I’d be judged for being out of practice, joining late and not having the lively social life that my fellow junior and senior teammates had. I was scared to embarrass myself by not making the team, or to make the team and never fit in.

However, after I played interhall for my dorm in the spring of my sophomore year, I knew I would regret not trying out for the club team the next year. Despite my nerves and doubts, I couldn’t be happier with the decision. I’ve been able to play two more seasons of my sport with the best teammates I could have asked for. We just returned from Round Rock, Texas where we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to compete at Nationals. The tournament was a perfect cap to my club soccer career. It also showed me how much the girls I play with care for each other regardless of our record or how we played in the most recent game. I returned feeling valued, loved and accomplished. I’m sad to see my time playing organized soccer come to an end, but I’m grateful for the tremendous growth I experienced by overcoming my insecurities and anxieties. 

 

 

Many students sign up for more than they can handle freshman year and slowly drop the commitments they feel least connected to or feel like are the least important for their resumes moving forward. However, most of the activities that I love and value the most are things I picked up as a junior, especially club soccer. Our schedules are endlessly demanding, especially given the pressure of preparing for post-graduation life. However, it’s extremely important to remember to make time for the activities you love regardless of their resume-building potential. These activities that promote your personal growth and mental and emotional well-being will probably be some of the most productive additions to your schedule.

 

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