"I play to win, whether during practice or a real game. And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win. " - Michael Jordan
College bound athletes need to have a competitive nature to play college sports. They need extraordinary drive and motivation to succeed and survive being a college student and an athlete. University athletics is significantly different compared to being a regular student. An athlete’s skill, speed and agility is crucial to their athletic success, but the inherently competitive nature and discipline is what helps athletes be successful students.
The first thing you will notice as a student-athlete is the training sessions are longer, more frequent and the workload in the classroom is substantially greater than what you are used to. College is made up of Men and Women teams; you are no longer an age group competitor. Your new teammates will be bigger, stronger and faster.
Often a student-athlete will have an internal struggle between mind and body. An athlete's body is capable of training at great lengths but a lack of mental strength can make athletes doubt their abilities. In modern elite sports, training your mind is as important as training your body. For athletes to stay positive they need to understand that self-doubt exists, but with persistence, you will master it. Athletes do this by creating small achievable goals for every training session, the achievement of these goals helps to remain positive and competitive.
Winners go out and make it happen; losers make excuses why they failed. Many people believe that "Good things come to those who wait." This thought process is not going to take an athlete to the next level. A good coach will never say to their team, "If we are meant to win, we will." Being a winner is so much more than that. Winners have a clear path to success, they plan, work hard and use their competitive nature to take the win away from their opponents.
There is a great story about an aspiring college athlete by the name Chris Lofton. Chris was an exceptional basketball talent in high school and was given the nickname “Mr Basketball”. When the time came to play in college, he was overlooked by many top universities. Chris began to doubt his abilities and often said to himself that he wasn’t tall enough, he wasn’t quick enough and his defense was not good enough. The one skill Chris truly believed in was that his shooting of the basketball was second to none. This belief finally led him to join the University of Tennessee. After Chris had finished college, he went on to play professionally in France and is still remembered at Tennessee for holding the record for the most 3-point shots made. What very few people know is that during college Lofton was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Not only did he overcome self-doubt, the rigorous schedule of being a Division 1 student-athlete but he overcame cancer too!
Everyone has difficulties to overcome. If you want to be a winner, you need to remind yourself of what is it that you want, and set clear attainable goals to help you follow through. Being a student athlete is not as easy or as glamorous as the movies. If you remain positive and you achieve your goals, you will overcome your challenges. Remember, "Winners never quit and quitters never win." So never give up; you only fail the moment you stop trying.
Must I go Division I or Nothing?
High school athletes have a tendency only to want to attend Division I or Division II university programmes, but in reality, playing at these schools is not a possibility at that time. Many students who leave high school are still growing and not fully developed to play at this level. Only 1% of all college athletes get full scholarships to NCAA Division I schools, meaning you have much more opportunity in Division II and Division III.
Why Division III May be Right For You.
Division III colleges are proud to claim that their athletes do not compete for scholarship money alone. D III Colleges do not offer Sports Scholarships, claiming their students only compete for the love of the sport. This "no scholarship" philosophy gives colleges the opportunity to focus on the quality of the education and not the PR crisis if their football team has a disastrous season.
Why You Might Not Have to Pay More to Attend a D III College.
Students who play Division III need to understand that just because there are no athletic scholarships, doesn’t mean their financial obligations will increase. Students can apply for academic and needs-based financial aid which are some of the best ways athletes can keep the cost of their education down.
Why Division III is as Serious as DII or DI.
The common misconception of DIII is that the schools are not as prestigious as their higher division counterparts. But in reality, Division III college athletes are extremely serious and proud to play for their colleges. These athletes have the same opportunities to use their sporting talents to achieve their professional goals. Richie Marquez, who played four years at the Division III University of Redlands, was the 44th pick in the 2014 Major League Soccer (MLS) SuperDraft and is now a member of the Philadelphia Union MLS team. Richie is a fantastic example of how lower division college players can still make it in the big leagues.
Why a Big Name College Might not be Right for You.
When looking at college and universities, students and parents need to look past the name and history of the university. What is critical to making the right college decision is to think about whether the programme is the right fit academically, athletically and socially. If this fit is a division III college in a small country town, you need to have the courage to make the best decision.
Most athletes have experienced the displeasure of getting injured and many have endured a recurrence of that injury due to inadequate rehabilitation and rest. Injuries often keep athletes on the sidelines for extended periods of time and they quickly become impatient and skip recovery steps and return to action before they are ready. Does this sound familiar to you? Well, below we will look at the different steps in the recovery process and dissect why it is so important to follow them, so to eliminate the risk of a recurring injury.
- An injury not only damages tissue but it adds stress on the athletes mind too. Rest is a crucial time when the body is allowed to heal, and the athlete can distance themselves from the rigors of competitive sports. If a doctor recommends doing nothing for a period of time, then it is best if you allow your body the medically recommended time to heal. Resting adequately will help you to recover quicker in the long run, allowing you to be confident in the reliability and performance of the injured appendage.
- Injuries tend to affect the strength, range of motion and function of the injured area. Rehabilitation aids in regaining muscle strength, restoring range of motion and helps to regain normal endurance levels. It is important to be disciplined with the rehab process in order to recover correctly; if you have specific exercises to do every day, then you need to put in the effort to complete them as instructed.
3. Change Focus
- When an injury does occur, athletes will often focus on everything they are not able to do. Dwelling on the negatives only serves to harm your mental state. During the rehabilitation phase, make a conscious effort to focus on other aspects of training. Try to find exercises that will stimulate your competitive nature and not affect the injured area. For example; try swimming or cycling.
- Keeping a positive attitude is key to making a speedy recovery. The more negative you are, the less motivated you become with your rehabilitation and training; which will only delay your recovery. With a positive attitude, you may surprise yourself and recover a lot faster than expected.
Recovery and rehabilitation is a complex and highly important part of being an athlete. If you do it wrong you may inflict long term damage on your body which may impact your career. Do it correctly and you show your coaches that you are a dedicated and self-disciplined person who understands what it takes to be an elite athlete.
Nutrition and athletic performance are undeniably linked. For young aspiring athletes, nutrition is one of the most overlooked aspects of their competitive preparation programme. Eating a well-balanced diet is critical for good mental and physical welling being. A sound eating plan provides an athlete's body with energy, protein and essential fats, as well as minerals and vitamins which helps performance and allows for quick recovery and new muscle growth.
Below we have compiled the types of food that aim to promote health and wellbeing in elite level athletes. This content can also be applied to healthy individuals, however; they do not apply to people who need special dietary plans for medical conditions, nor does it apply to the frail and elderly.
1. Sweet Potatoes
- Tremendous source of Vitamin A and contains a good amount of Vitamin C
- Vitamin A helps maintain soft tissue and skin
2. Oatmeal (Not Instant)
- Great as a stable breakfast or a protein shake
- Help boost carbohydrates and calories
- Also high in fibre, which helps maintain an athlete's glucose levels
- Extremely high in potassium and a good amount of carbohydrates
- Helps to maintain low blood pressure
- Very high in Vitamin C
- It is ideal for healing and boosting the immune system
- Unsaturated fat which helps fight inflammation
- Protein to support recovery
- Fibre to maintain energy
6. Olive Oil
- Stimulates natural anti-inflammatories
- Fantastic muscle building protein
- Has loads of Omega 3 fats which aids in the recovery process
8. Flax Seed
- High in Omega 3 fats and fibre
9. Whey Protein
- Contains a lot of amino acids
- It is a derivative of milk
- Can mix powder into water to make a protein shake
- Or you can drink a tall glass of milk
- High amount of amino acids
- High in protein
- Contains healthy fat
12. Coconut Oil
- Good for metabolism and energy
- Can easily cook with it
An athlete’s body is like a car engine; it needs to be taken care of. You would not put diesel into a petrol engine; as it will not work properly and may severely damage the vehicle. The same goes for your body, the only problem with this analogy is that athletes only get one body. They cannot run down to the dealership and trade in the old model for a newer faster version. We need to constantly be putting in the correct fuel; to not only perform now but to maintain a long healthy lifestyle.
The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) is the largest athletic organising body for college sports in the USA, managing over 450,000 student athletes per year. The NCAA prides itself on taking care and creating opportunities for student-athletes, putting a lot of emphasis on Academics, Student Wellbeing, and Athletic Fairness. Of these three core focuses, the NCAA’s academic standards are being altered.
The NCAA has announced they will be increasing their academic standards and requirements for Division 1, from August 2016. Listed below are a few reasons why they are being raised.
Academics come first in College. The higher the academic standards, the better prepared the student-athlete will be to succeed after college life.
Division 1 teams need student-athletes to meet academic standards to avoid penalties. The NCAA can decrease a team's scholarship funding and reduce their playing and practice times if academic standards are not fulfilled.
Studies conducted by the NCAA, show that student-athletes graduate at higher rates compared to the overall student body. The goal of the NCAA is to maintain and increase the graduation rates for its student-athletes.
Division 1 Core Course Requirements from High School:
· Total Courses Needed = 16
· 4 years English
· 3 years Mathematics
· 2 years of either Natural Sciences or Physical Sciences
· 2 years Social Sciences
· 1 year additional of either English/Mathematics/Natural Science/Physical Science
· 4 years additional courses in either a Foreign Language, English/Mathematics,
Changes to NCAA D1 Academic Requirements:
- 10 of the 16 required core courses need to be completed by the end of Grade 11.
- A minimum GPA of 2.30 in your core courses is needed.
- The combined SAT or ACT scores need to match the core courses on the GPA sliding scale.
- 7 of the 10 core courses need to be a combination of English, Maths Core, Natural Science and Physical Sciences.
If the student-athlete does not meet these new requirements, they will not be able to play for one year.
The NCAA has always encouraged wellness among student-athletes; they believe that it is vital to keep athletes physically and mentally healthy, both on and off the field. A few ways in which the NCAA looks out for the athletes’ wellbeing are listed below:
· The NCAA has recently partnered with the United States Department of Defense and gained $30 million of funding which will be used to clinically study concussions and head injuries.
· The NCAA discourages the use of alcohol and drugs. To combat substance abuse, random drug tests are carried out multiple times per year.
· The NCAA provides resources to colleges and student-athletes to help manage mental health.
· The NCAA maintains strict standards to prevent hazing, initiations, and physical abuse within team structures.
· The NCAA provides educational programmes and resources to help inform athlete about proper nutrition.
· The NCAA now offers unlimited meals and snacks to both Division 1 and 2 athletes, in relation to the athletes participation.
Fairness and equal opportunity is what all athletes want when being a part of any organisation. Since 1994, when the NCAA began to develop women sports, female participation has more than doubled and is looking to exponentially increase. Athletic scholarships are also evenly distributed between men and women, for example if 10 men get football scholarships, 10 women need to get the equal amount of scholarships, be it in different sports such as tennis, field hockey or water polo. This goes to show that the NCAA is dedicated to fairness and equality throughout college sports.