So you’re heading off to college! If you are anything like me you are the most nervous you have ever been, but also the most excited. Whether you are competing at an NCAA Division 1,2,3, NAIA or Junior College, you are becoming a student-athlete, and that comes with a lot of responsibility. Your first semester will be the hardest, and then it will start to get easier as you learn the process and get into a routine. Here are some lessons I learned throughout my Division 1 golf career, hopefully being informed will make the transition the slightest bit easier.
Yes you have probably heard this a million times but I can’t stress it enough. Golf is different from other sports. A basketball or football team hops on a bus, travels to a game, and heads right back to school. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that is not golf. If you are headed away for an event, expect to get in the van on Thursday night and not get back until Sunday night, usually pretty late. As someone who lugged 30 pounds of textbooks with her to every tournament, you do not have as much time as you think you do, most of your time is spent on the course. It is important to know what responsibilities you have and to have a plan. Make a schedule! There is a lot more time in a week that you might think. Make a plan and be aware of what your responsibilities are so you are not getting back at 8pm after practice and having a 5 page paper due at 11:59pm.
You are a STUDENT-athlete
I always thought it was a cheesy line, student comes before athlete so you’re a student first. As much as I brushed this one off it is one of the truest statements. Unless you plan to go on tour, you are at college to get an education and start your professional career. Don’t lose sight of that when you are caught up in the practice 6 days a week, gym 4 days a week, and want to hang out with your friends too. Not only do you need to make sure you have time for schoolwork, but you have to put the same effort into homework that you would practice. Not to scare you but after your’e time at college you’re going to be thrown into the real world and it is important you have the tools, and grades to succeed.
This one is not golf-specific, it may not even be sports specific. Not everyone sees eye to eye and gets along, in any team setting. This is where team dynamic is put to the test. You are around or with your teammates almost every single day. There are going to be clashing personalities and people who will argue. One fight between two teammates can tear the team apart but throw a little respect into the equation and the team will only get stronger. It is human nature to be built and wired differently. There will always be arguments and disagreements between teammates, especially when you spend so much time together. If you find yourself in this position, like I did, I challenge you to look at your teammates. One of my teammates and I could not stand to talk to each other and I slowly noticed the riff between the two of us was tearing the team in half. We respected each other enough to leave the drama at home and to show up for the team.
Have a good mental headspace & take time for you
This might be my most important piece of advice. You will be busy and sometimes you will feel like there is not enough time in a day to do what you need to do. Forget about time, the stress is what got to me. The three tests I have to study for, being in the gym two hours a day, being on the course for another 5 hours, having a student government meeting, or community service hours to attend. I started to wonder if my head was ever going to stop spinning. No matter what happens you will be alright. Remember to always put yourself first and if you find yourself having a hard time dealing with the stress of college life, talk to someone. Almost every college athletic program has some sort of student support service. Figure out what your school has to offer and take advantage of those services if you need to. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help or talk to someone about your fears, stress, and worries, it is a sign of strength because you are putting yourself first.
Only 7% of high school athletes get the chance to play college sports. You are one of those lucky people, and I want you to make the most of your college career. I want you to leave saying the same thing I am, I would not change a single thing about my college golf career. Sometimes it was hard, sometimes I wondered if I should give up, but the experience made me stronger and molded me into the person I am today. Ultimately you get to decide how your college sports career goes, so give it your all and have the best four years of your life!