So you've decided playing a sport in college is a major goal of yours.
Congratulations! Having the desire to accomplish a goal like this has to start somewhere, and setting such a goal is the first step.
Every student-athlete has different reasons as to why they'd like to play a varsity sport in college. There are no right or wrong answers to that question, as long as you're being honest with yourself.
Exactly when you come to the conclusion you want to play in college will have an impact on your timeline, but kids often tend to be in 9th or 10th grade when they set such a goal.
At what level do you want to play during your college career?
There are perfectly good reasons behind shooting for Division I, II or III athletics (as well as NAIA and Club Sports). Whatever your answer is to that question, there is one important thing you should do as early as possible: Get your athletic ability evaluated.
Getting an Initial Athletic Evaluation
It's not fair to ask a high school freshman or sophomore to already possess the necessary athletic ability to play any particular sport at a college level. The game is just too fast, and their competition is too much older.
What is important to do at this stage of your high school career, though, is to get an objective athletic evaluation from someone who's trusted in the sport. This means having your high school coach, club coach, or someone else who's worked with many high school athletes who've gone on to play in college evaluate your current ability level.
Do you want to play Division I soccer?
That's a great goal, but very few kids (even the most naturally gifted athlete) just stumbles into a scholarship. It takes a series of consistent intentional acts to reach that kind of goal. An initial athletic evaluation will let you know whether your current abilities have you on track to potentially reach that goal if you continue progressing.
College coaches aren't in the projection business. They want to see your current skills and evaluate how you can help their team either right now or the following season. They may be intrigued with your showcase performance as a sophomore, but if you don't put in the work and don't progress between sophomore year and senior year, a coach can very easily turn to another recruit who has put in that work to keep getting better.
Creating a Plan
No athlete wants to hear that their current skill set doesn't project out to the D1 level.
However, getting that disappointing news during the beginning or middle of your high school career allows you to adjust and change that trajectory.
It's important to remember that you can't change the past, but you can always change the future. The athletic recruiting process involves a lot of variables that are out of your control, which makes taking hold of the ones you can control more of a necessity.
If you're disappointed by the results of an initial athletic evaluation, your next question should be: "OK, coach. Can we make a detailed technique/fitness/ability plan so I will be at that skill level by the time coaches are ready to recruit athletes in my class?"
If you're encouraged and excited by the results of an athletic evaluation, your next question should be, "OK, coach. Can we make a detailed plan to make sure I keep progressing and getting better by the time coaches are ready to recruit athletes in my class?"
Putting in the Work
As mentioned before, nothing happens by accident. Having dreams of playing college athletics is an admirable one, but if there is no plan of action attached, it only remains as a dream and not a goal you're striving toward.
This all comes down to desire. If playing at the next level is a crucial part of your college experience, then make sure you're closely following the detailed plan that was made after your initial athletic evaluation. Achieving goals and having success involves daily focus.
That doesn't mean it's the only thing you're allowed to think about throughout high school. You can take breaks, and you should—you're still a kid and you have a life outside of your sport(s) of choice.
However, it's always good to have the bigger picture in mind. It's what will help you get up to go work out early on a Saturday morning when nobody else is.
Photo Credit: paparazzit/iStock
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