To be honest, I never thought I would be a college athlete. I had heard so many horror stories of students being pressured to put athletics over academics, being unable to enjoy the college experience because of workout schedules and having their beloved sport be crushed by nonstop practices. I also knew the stereotypes and couldn't imagine myself fitting in among them: the dumb jock, the fitness fanatic, the sports prodigy. These misconceptions deterred me from dreaming of collegiate sports for most of my high school softball career. You see, I loved being on the field but always knew there were more important matters, and I definitely didn't want to devote the entirety of my college years to playing a sport when I could be focused on education and exploring new interests.
However, after much reassurance that these preconceptions were not entirely accurate, I decided to sign and play softball with my college. For me, the positive outweighed the negative, and I simply couldn't bear passing up this type of opportunity.
1. You learn to manage your time.
College athletics is one of the most time-consuming extracurriculars. With practices, conditioning, games and team bonding events, finding time for much else can be a challenge. However, this can actually be a very good thing for student-athletes, because it promotes strong time-management skills. You have to find time to finish homework between games and class. You are forced to wake up for those early morning practices but wind up getting the most out of the day because of it. In short, a sport can really help freshmen find structure during this transition from a rigid, preplanned schedule to a completely open day.
2. There are no worries about the freshman fifteen.
If you're worried about this dreaded curse, sports are a wonderful way to keep off the possible weight gain. Athletes are forced to hit the gym while most freshmen are not. Even though the exercises can be exhausting and easy to hate mid-workout, a daily trip to the gym will help freshmen form strong fitness habits that promote health as a priority throughout college and adulthood. Integrating fitness into your schedule as a freshman is essential since it is one of the first lifestyle choices you have to make as an independent adult, and it is much easier to form the habit now instead of later along. As student-athletes, this is not exactly a choice, making it much more difficult to back out when the workouts get hard. If you add in a healthy diet, there is really no reason at all to worry about the freshman fifteen.
3. You get free school spirit gear.
Jerseys, sweatpants, hoodies, shorts, t-shirts - being an athlete means you are given the gear to show it. Although technically the clothing is meant to make the team look more uniform, it's free clothes! This is a huge perk, as you'll see when others begin to pay outrageous bookstore prices for their favorite spirit gear. So appreciate this privilege.
4. You begin college with friends and a support network.
Being an athlete means being a part of a team, and student-athletes will always enter their collegiate years with a number of upperclassmen friends to support, advise and mentor them. Your older teammates have gone through exactly what you are now, so who could possibly be a better mentor? Not to mention that teammates quickly become family and they will always have your back even if no one else does.
5. You have a stress outlet.
College is stressful, but between the sense of belonging that a team offers, and the exercise endorphins, it doesn't have to overwhelm you. Sports are the perfect way to get rid of stress and stay in shape at the same time. Plus, if playing a sport you love isn't cheery enough, nothing is better than having a team that can make you laugh after a long day.
Lead Image Credit: Sydney Leibfritz