Being 19 usually means a child has moved away from home – be it to a home of their own or in the case of many young people dedicated to excelling in athletics, to a college campus to continue their playing careers.
The type of young people who play sports on a full or partial college scholarship are truly the elite of their population set, a miniscule 5% of all athletes who play high school athletics of some kind go on to play collegiately.
So what changes can you expect for your child when they move on to college athletics? Three areas stand out above the rest.
- Change in body type
- Tougher competition off the field
- Tougher competition on the field
Physically, most young people are a reasonable facsimile of their adult body types by the time they’re entering college, but their bodies often change dramatically when exposed to the collegiate athletic environment. With sprawling weight rooms, strength and conditioning coaches, nutritional specialists, and customized diets from private dorms’ meal plans, young athletes can literally see their bodies transformed within a year or two of enrolling in college. Getting bigger and stronger can be great for one’s performance on the field, but the negatives are there as well – how big is too big? How much weight is too much to safely handle? How many hours in the gym becomes too much, negatively impact one’s performance elsewhere or the body’s ability to stay healthy?
Beyond the physical transformation that college athletes can undergo, the most important areas of concern for parents are the dueling ideas of freedom and of responsibility.
When a child sleeps at your house, eats your food, and goes to and from school in your car, there is an inherent acceptance that you know to some degree how that child is spending his or her time and how accountable for responsibilities they are being.
Off the Field
From a sheerly logical standpoint, that knowledge flies out the window when a young person moves out of the home and to a college campus – no matter how well connected parents can stay with them via cell phones, email, etc., they are still physically in a different location, where they can be easily influenced by peer pressure and the innate curiosity that comes with the college experience. This can lead to poor decision-making that breaks down a young athlete’s ability to perform to their best ability on the practice field and in actual live competition, as well as their ability to properly rest and replenish their bodies between times of athletic stress.
When a person’s body is used to eight hours of sleep per night to restore and replenish, and suddenly that time is cut to six hours, with the other two spent partying, playing video games, and drinking, a toll will be taken.
On the Field
The best-kept secret every high school standout learns on the first day of college practice is: everyone else was the best player at their high school, too. On-the-field competition, both in practice and in game play, accelerates. The speed of each game is faster, the collisions more intense, and the chances for injury skyrocket. This dramatic increase in competition can have negative effects on a young athlete’s confidence, emotional control, and judgement,
This article was adapted from the book Whose Game Is It, Anyway?, Ginsburg, Durant and Baltzell