Most kids growing up dream of playing on the big stage , I know I did. In the back yard dreaming of hitting the game winner in the Final 4, scoring the big goal in a National Championship game or throwing the winning touchdown in a major bowl game. I pretended to do all of them. But dreams don’t always turn into reality. There are 8 million high school student-athletes and approximately 6% continue their athletic career in college. And about 150,000 of them compete at the NCAA Division I level.
Do you have what it takes to be a Division I student-athlete?
A Division I student-athlete must have a certain mindset as well as the talent to play at the next level. Most, not all Division I student-athletes are the best players on their high school or club teams, however just because you are the best on your high school team doesn’t mean you can play at the Division I level and vice versa. It takes much more than talent to be a Division I student-athlete. Here are 4 qualities that every Division I student-athlete should have or do.
If you want to play at the highest level in college sports you must have unwavering self-confidence. But you must also be realistic. I dreamed of playing college soccer at the University of Virginia for as long as I can remember. But I realized I didn’t quite have the talent as well as the grades to play at that level. But I still believed I had what it took to be a Division I soccer player but it wasn’t an easy road. I had many people tell me I was crazy, you would too , if you heard the story. I played on a very competitive club team in Philadelphia, each year we were competing for a State Cup Championship. I also attended a high school that traditionally had a strong boys soccer program. I thought I was entering into a great situation that would provide the experience I needed to play Division I college soccer. That turned out to not be the case. 20 years ago the recruiting process didn’t really begin until the summer prior to your senior year, much different than it is today. It is also much easier to be seen by a college coach today than it was 20 years ago. To make a long story short, there was no recruiting process for me. I ended up playing in 5 varsity soccer games in my senior year, so yeah I was a bench player. I didn’t have one college coach contact me, I reached out to a handful of schools to express interest but only had one program reach out to me only to tell me they didn’t have any roster spots available for the fall but I could play on the JV team. That was all the opportunity I needed. I eventually walked-on to the team in the spring of my freshmen year and would go on to play my last 3 years. The highlight of which is a game vs. nationally ranked University of Virginia. I received my first start in my junior. I would end my college career making 13 starts and playing in 23 games, not too shabby for a high school bench player. The best part of that story is that was the place I wanted to go, soccer or no soccer. Today, I consider Mount St. Mary’s my second home. The moral of the story is that my talent is not what led me to The Mount but the self-confidence I had in myself that I could play at that level.
Your attitude is what will carry you through your athletic career. How do you approach the game? Do you feel because you are one of the best players people will just hand you things. Well, if that is the way you feel than you don’t have the Division I mentality. There is no sense of entitlement being a Division I student-athlete, it is a privilege and you need to earn it everyday.
Do you believe you are so good that you can skate by on your talents? If that is your attitude then you don’t have the Division I mindset. College coaches want someone who is going to improve over their career. Are you willing to work for what you want? Are you willing to sacrifice things to reach your goals. This is your training mindset. Showing up is not enough in college, you need to train hard. If a college coach has the opportunity to watch you practice they are going to observe how you approach training. Will you just go through the motions in simple drills or will you go 100%? College coaches LOVE athletes who train hard all the time.
Do you think you have nothing else to learn or are you willing to learn more? Coaches want players who want to improve in all aspects of their game. You must be able to handle constructive criticism from the coaching staff. Coach-ability is major player in being a Division I student-athlete. You have to have the attitude that you do not know everything and your coach has much more experience than you do.
In an interview with Head Women’s Lacrosse Coach at University of Southern California, Lindsey Munday spoke about what she looks for in her recruits. I think this is exactly the mindset that every potential Division I Athlete should have.
“There are so many talented players out there, and I truly think the ones that succeed at the next level are the players who have the desire to improve, work hard, and fall in love with the process of becoming the best they can be.”
Obviously to play Division I you have to have Division I talent. Division I is not for everyone, if you have the burning desire to play there are many options to look at. There are many players who have the ability to play Division I but maybe they are looking for something different out of their college experience so they go to a Division II, III, or NAIA school. As you navigate through the process keep your options open, don’t slam the door on any opportunities that come your way.
If you had your choice would you rather be a bench player on a mediocre Division I team or be a starter on a Division III team that will compete for conference championship?
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