In our last three posts, we looked at some of the soccer-related aspects of transitioning from high school to NCAA Division III college soccer. Even more important in making this transition however, are the non-soccer, off the field changes. These changes can have an even greater impact on the freshman student-athlete and, if not well managed, make for a difficult freshmen year.
First, let’s be clear— as a student-athlete playing soccer at an NCAA Division III school, your first semester is most likely going to be your toughest. There are many changes that will affect you as far as soccer goes (as we discussed in previous posts), but there are also the off the field aspects which we will consider that can have an even greater impact.
One of the biggest challenges is living away from home. For some student-athletes, this may be the first time they have spent an extended period of time living away from home. That in itself is a HUGE adjustment. A student-athlete’s normal support system of family and friends is not physically present (although with cell phones and Skype they are not so distant) and a new system has to be built. For some this is easy to do while for others this can be challenging.
Additionally, there is the general “homesickness”. “I miss my Mom/Dad, I miss my brother/sister, I miss my dog/cat, I miss my bed, I miss the home cooked meals, I miss my friends” are all things that student-athletes will say and feel coming to college for the first time. Missing the Sunday family dinner or other family events are also there as well. The strength of those feelings can be overpowering for some student-athletes.
Another big hurdle is the roommate. Living with someone who is essentially a complete stranger to you is a challenge. Will the two of you get along? What are his/her likes/dislikes? Will the two of you be friends? Does your roommate stay out until 2:00 AM every night when you have an 8:00 AM class every morning? Do they snore? Are they bringing their boyfriend/girlfriend over to your room all the time? Are they being loud and noisy when you are trying to study or sleep?
Living away from home you will also have new responsibilities. Doing your own laundry for the first time- hopefully you are prepared for that! What about if you get sick? Not so sick that you have to go to the hospital, but sick enough that feel like you can’t go to class. Do you think you can handle that without Mom and Dad? What about if your roommate gets sick? Can you get yourself up in the morning and to class on time? Every day? Do you know how to manage your time between classes, studying, having a job (maybe) and any other activities so that you can both do well academically but also enjoy college?
At most college campuses you will also face pressure in terms of alcohol and/or drugs as well as sexual activity. College is a time to get to know yourself and student-athletes often times experiment in these areas. With every decision that a student-athlete makes, there are always consequences depending on the choices made. How are you going to handle facing those peer pressures?
The good thing is that as a soccer player, you have a group of teammates who have gone through all these things themselves and can help. More than likely, they have similar experiences and may have learned some valuable lessons along the way. Ask them about their experiences. Similarly, the coaching staff should be there to help as well. They have taken many student-athletes through the transition from high school to college and they can help. The majority of college coaches were former college players too, so they have gone through this themselves. Most colleges and universities also have counseling services for those student-athletes that need them and can help in this transitional period.
Stay tuned for our next post as we continue to look at more off-the-field factors that will affect your jump from high school to college soccer. As always, thanks for reading!
Want to share your experience going from high school to college soccer? Leave a comment down below or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments.