Very shortly, preseason training for most NCAA D3 soccer players will begin across the country. In this week’s post we are taking a step away from the recruiting side of things and talking about the adjustment that incoming freshmen make when going from high school to college soccer.
For the upperclassmen, it is a time of reunion where they get to see their teammates again, get back on campus, and get back to the rhythm of another soccer season. There are a lot of handshakes and hugs, laughter and smiles, and general optimism about the upcoming season. Everyone gets caught up and renews old friendships as well begins preparations for the new season.
For the incoming freshmen, it is a different story. Everything is brand new and can be intimidating. There are challenges that student-athletes face on the field (increased technical abilities of players, greater physicality, higher fitness demands, and better tactical awareness), but sometimes the greatest challenges student-athletes face are those off the field.
First and foremost with D3 are the academics and time management. Most student-athletes find the academics more challenging at college than high school, so this is an immediate burden. Couple this with greater demands on their time from soccer—practice/games six days per week, team meetings, weight training, travelling hours to away games— and this makes it very difficult for a freshman to manage their time between studying and soccer and do well academically. The student-athlete that can manage their time well, will do fine; those that cannot often struggle their first semester at college.
Second is the fact that student-athletes are living away from home. For some, this may be the first time in their lives that they have done this and it can be very stressful. They don’t have the same support system in place from their families or high school friends and they must work to build a new one. Couple that with the fact of more of a time burden like having to do your own laundry and this becomes even more of a burden.
Lastly is the purely social aspect of things. Going from a high school senior to a college freshmen— from the top of the heap to the lowest rung on the ladder— is psychologically jolting. Most freshmen don’t know anyone (or very few players) on the current team so they don’t have a network of friends to help them. Team dynamics are usually well established and incoming freshmen need to find their place within that existing structure. If the team is cohesive, this is easier than if the team has divisions or cliques within it.
The bottom line is this—the first semester as a freshman at college is the hardest and most challenging one that student-athletes will face. Making that jump from high school to college soccer is very challenging and difficult in more ways than just playing on the field. With perseverance, determination, resiliency and a positive attitude freshmen student-athletes can be successful.
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