Student Athletes: Transitioning from High School to College

By, Sam M. ’21 and Caroline C. ’21

The transition from high school sports to college sports is definitely a difficult one. From the time commitment to fitness to balancing academics on top of sports, there are so many aspects of college which differ from the typical high school sports experience.

Arielle M. ’15 walked on to the DIII field hockey team at Wellesley College after being Varsity field hockey captain at Winsor. “Walking on and playing college field hockey one was of the best decisions I ever made; however, it definitely was not easy at the beginning transitioning from high school athletics,” stated Metropolis.

One major difference college athletes face as opposed to high school athletes is the time commitment they are expected to give to their sport and team. Arielle mentioned that she could be spending “up to six hours a day in the gym or on the field with the team.” Elizabeth H.-E. ’18, who plays Basketball at Scripps, mentions that “I only got to go home for about 10 days over break, whereas all my friends were home for a month or more.” For a winter athlete, “from October to [March], my life has revolved around basketball.” Also, in college, a sport not being in season does not mean the members of the team are able to take a break.  College athletes cannot lose fitness in their offseason or over the summer or else they would struggle greatly going back into the season, as opposed to Winsor athletics where it is not required for them to spend their offseason training, only encouraged. Furthermore, Ms. C., a Winsor art teacher and Varsity Field Hockey head coach who played Division 1 field hockey at BU, stated “the time commitment between Division 1 and Division 2 is very different. For most D3 student-athletes, there was something else drawing them to their school, not just athletics.”

Another main aspect of the transition to college sports is the fitness level. Elizabeth believes that “most athletes would say that fitness is the biggest leap in terms of their sport.” Many college athletic teams require their athletes to complete numerous weight training workouts, despite many students, like Arielle, never having seriously lifted prior to college. In high school, Arielle “could not even bench the standard 45-pound bar” and had to work very hard to get herself to the level that college athletics requires. College sports teams also have fitness tests which are extremely difficult and designed to whip athletes into shape for season. The first fitness test in college sports is one of the most grueling physical tests and the fitness level required for them is much higher than that of high school sports. Collegiate fitness tests vary from sport to sport and from division to division, but most tests have a combination of sprinting, long distance running, and a strength portion of the test. Ms. C. said, “another major difference between D1 and D3 is the fitness level,” making the fitness test in D1 harder than those in D3 athletics, although both are very difficult. However, the necessary requirements for a fitness test differ from sport to sport based on the skill set needed.

Lastly, balancing sports and school is an important part of the college transition. Collegiate athletes spend their college experience completely dedicated to their team. However, they have to be just as dedicated to their school work. According to Metropolis, field hockey helped her “learn important time management skills.” Similarly, Elizabeth stated, “It’s just all about being efficient with your time.” Many athletes have practice from around 2-8 p.m. everyday and play in weekend games. This busy schedule teaches them to be organized and as efficient with their time as possible. “I get my work done during the day between classes and before practice,” expressed Arielle, “so I don’t have to worry about staying up late.” For many collegiate athletes, especially those in rigorous colleges, succeeding in class is just as important as succeeding on the field or court. Arielle felt “very well-prepared coming from Winsor” because of the busy schedule and hard work Winsor students face. The independence and responsibility students take away from Winsor greatly help graduates manage their time. “It has been up to me to manage my time very carefully, making time for any extra conditioning or treatment I need to keep my body healthy and ready for competition, as well as studying plays and scouting reports on top of my already challenging academic schedule,” Alina B. ’18 added. At most schools, academics come first; as Elizabeth said, “My coach puts it as one, academics; one-point-two-five, basketball; two, everything else.”

Obviously, transitioning into college, the level of play is way higher. For Metropolis, it “took some time to figure out the team playing style, what your coach likes, formation, etc.” Ms. K., a Winsor teacher who played basketball at Fenley, also commented that it was hard to adjust from “being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond. In college, everyone is at an extremely high level, so it was hard my freshman year to transition from being top dog in high school to being on a team full of top dogs.” This struggle is prominent for many college athletes. Many athletes have to regain their confidence.

However, despite these challenges at the college level, Alina emphasizes the importance of knowing “that nothing will reaffirm your love for your sport more! There is truly nothing like competing at this level, and collegiate athletics is an opportunity I would not trade for the world.”