An Open Letter To The Aspiring College Athlete

An Open Letter To The Aspiring College Athlete

What you need to know before you go.

If you are involved in a sport and are seeking to play at a higher level, I must first commend you for your bravery and discipline to travel a road much less traveled. You’ve made sacrifices and missed parties and passed up hangouts with friends because of your sport. You’ve used your sport as an excuse to get out of things and hated when it’s the reason you have to miss out on something awesome. You’ve done a lot to be where you are, but if you want to play in college, there are going to be a lot more sacrifices in your future. This is an open letter to anyone considering pursuing a collegiate career in his or her sport about the things you need to know before you get there:

1. College athletics is a whole different game.

Whether you play football, or golf, or soccer, or tennis or are a member of the dance team, the level of intensity and demand your sport has on you in college is unlike any you experienced before. It’s not just your sport, it’s your job, and it’s a job that requires you to work 24/7 because, in reality, everything you do affects your sport and you always have to be conscious of the decisions you make.

2. You may be called a "student-athlete," but we all know you're really an "athlete-student."

Everyone tells you academics are the most important thing, which they are, but it’s hard to find the willpower to stay up until 3 a.m. studying biology when you have a 6 a.m. practice the next day. I’ve done it. Others have done it. But at the end of the day, your time and energy revolves around your sports’ activities, and the sooner you realize that, the better off you’ll be learning how to manage time, or learning how to sleep with your eyes open while cramming three chapters the night before a test. Oops.

3. Sports in college will be one of the hardest things you'll ever do.

People are quick to say that college athletes are spoiled, and it’s mainly because of the gear that they get. Here is what I say to those people:

Wake up at 5:30 a.m. to run until you throw up. Workout so hard that you’re certain you’re only a few movements away from blacking out. Try really, really hard at something to only be yelled at and told that it wasn’t good enough, and then work five times harder to make sure it is good enough. Risk your body and health in order to win that tackle, or land that flip, or get over that bar. Sprint so hard that your legs feel like Jell-O, but you can’t stop because you have people relying on you to keep going. Then do it all again. Every day. In season and off-season. Now tell me that I’m spoiled for getting a T-shirt that represents my sport and how I am currently investing the majority of my life. *Mic drop*

4. Expect to be misunderstood.

It’s hard to explain tears of frustration after a rough practice or that you’re moving slowly because you ran a lot of sprints this morning or that you kinda smell because you didn’t shower this morning because you decided to sleep a little instead (guilty), but it’s okay. Don’t be bitter towards the people who tell you, “Oh, yeah, I’m really sore, too; I went for a run this morning.” As much as you want to ask them if they had someone screaming at them to go faster or made them run more than they were supposed to, you don’t need to. Because they probably are sore from their run and they most likely did not have a coach yelling at them. It’s okay to be different from the people around you and to feel a little misunderstood because there are a lot of things that you do not understand fully. You have a unique lifestyle, but it’s good to be kind to the people who don’t know what you suffer through because they have some things they suffer through that you don’t know about, either.

5. You never take your jersey off.

Even when you’re not competing, you are a symbol of your school and what you do is a direct reflection on your program. You should take pride in knowing that all that you do is being watched and monitored by those around you, and with that pride comes great responsibility to bring honor to your sport and school.

6. Remember that you're not alone.

On the nights where you can’t seem to stop the tears from falling because you miss your mom, or your dog, or your bed (guilty again), remember that you have teammates who are in your same situation and understand more than anyone what you’re going through. They have either gone through or are going through something similar to what you are, and it makes things so much easier when you let them into your life and when you share your problems and feelings with them. They are always on your team. Literally.

7. Embrace your forced friends.

For a lot of us, we end up going to a school that’s far away from home in order to play our sport. We leave behind our parents, our hometowns, and our best friends. It’s not easy to pick up and start a new life in a new city with thousands of new faces, but lucky for you, you have forced friends. Teammates. Your team really is your family. Not only because they see you at your worst, bent over looking like you’re ready to die after a hard session of fitness, but because you are literally forced to be around them all the time. Like a family, you didn’t get to pick who each of your teammates were. As I’ve grown closer to my teammates, I have made some of the best friends I have ever had. Even though you are at school to get an education and be successful in your sport, the relationships you make with the people in the jerseys beside you are the most rewarding part of your entire collegiate career. So embrace your forced friends because your college career will end, but the relationships you made along the way will last a lifetime.

Cover Image Credit: Jo Jones

Popular Right Now

7 Things That Annoy Volleyball Players More Than Anything

How to get under a volleyball player's skin in two seconds.

I'm not sure why but volleyball players are a very particular group of people — we like what we like and we HATE what we don't, especially when it is volleyball-related. If you're a volleyball player, I'm sure you can relate to this list and if you're not a volleyball player, now you know exactly how you will be able to get under our skin.

1. Girls who wear spandex in public

Don’t get me wrong, we wear spandex for a living. We understand WHY people wear them to workout. But wearing them to the dining hall, class or anywhere that isn’t the gym… please don’t. Put on some shorts or leggings — PLEASE.

2. The “I’ll beat you in volleyball” line

For some odd reason when someone who likes you finds out that you play volleyball, they say this. I’m not sure why, but its really annoying that people think they’re better than you (a collegiate athlete) at the sport you’ve been playing your whole life.

3. When guys mention that they only come to your games because you wear spandex

You’re right, why would any appreciate our athletic ability when you can simply appreciate our butts.

4. Freshman who don’t think they have to do their Freshman duties

PSA: Every single school has freshman duties; YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY FRESHMAN WHO HAVE TO DO THEM. Everyone has done them when they were a freshman. Stop complaining, do your duties, and play volleyball because after your freshman season you’ll never have to do it again.

5. When people try to tell you that volleyball isn’t hard

Why don’t you jump for three hours straight and throw your body on the ground hundreds of times and tell me how easy it is.

6. The word "spike"

I honestly feel bad about hating this so much but nothing nothing NOTHING annoys us more than when someone uses the work "spike". For some reason this word went out of style a longgggg time ago and nobody got the memo except the people in the volleyball world. Instead of telling your friend that they had a good spike, tell them that they had a great "hit." HIT = SPIKE.

7. Balls that aren't perfectly blown up

Volleyball players are hands down the most high maintenance group of people when it comes to our sport. I will go through an entire ball cart to find the best ball possible... if the ball is flat, no matter what contact you make it is going to be bad. If the ball is too hard, no matter what contact you make it is going to be bad.

Cover Image Credit: Sam

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

My Brother Wants To Play Basketball Professionally and We All Take Him Seriously

Who said career goals had to start where dreaming ended?


It started off as a hobby — every kid has one. Elementary is all about running through those career ideas that will sound hilarious ten years up the road. I remember, even as fifth-graders, how we'd laughed with airs of great wisdom and knowledge at their dreams of being tooth fairies and Santa's elves. The truth was, when you're a kid, everything seems possible.

We like to joke that my brother was born with a basketball in his hand. He didn't really grow an interest in the game till he was around four or five years old, but nowadays, it's difficult to remember that there was ever a time when we could see him without his ball; the constant sound of dribbling in the home does nothing to debase that notion.

Basketball isn't really considered a "brown person" sport. My relatives in Pakistan were incredulous when they heard and saw how attached my brother was to his basketball. If it didn't involve a small green ball, a bat, and wasn't called cricket, it was difficult to accept it as a sport for any respectable Pakistani boy to be obsessed with.

And that was what it had become this time. Earlier, when my brother would claim that he was going to be an NBA player, my parents would laugh and exchange glances with us - they were the "isn't this phase perfectly adorable?" glances. But as time passed by, and my brother remained unwavering in his commitment, my parents decided it was time to take his passion seriously. They enrolled him in basketball classes so he could start training for real and the two days a week he spends at those classes are probably still the highlight of his life.

Basketball doesn't end for him when he leaves his coaches and games though; his entire life is basketball. He'll dribble his ball in between bites of dinner, while watching T.V. — he's accidentally even carried it inside the bathroom with him a few times!

I'm always complaining about it to his face because, let me tell you, spending three to four hours hearing a basketball or any ball being dribbled across the floor will send even the sanest person into the straits of insanity and I'm not a friend of courting headaches. But, truthfully, I'm proud of my brother every time I hear him tell someone he plays basketball. I love how, even at age 10, he stays firm when the aunts and ladies around him continue to exchange those disbelieving glances, and when the more fortright ones tell him "You can play basketball for fun, but you have to be something else like a doctor or engineer." Who said brown kids couldn't play basketball, that it's reserved for the tallest people in the nation?

My brother can name the major players on every NBA team. He can recite the stats of countless players by heart and follows live games and recorded scores with equal passion. He keeps track of which teams are leading in each division and (to a chorus of our rolling eyes) will spend about five minutes every dinner telling us what is new in the basketball world. A couple of years ago, he managed to carry on an intricate basketball conversation with our cousin who was in town to visit his medical school and actually had the upper hand, because he cares so much.

Whether it's a passion, hobby or even borderline obsession, it's only ever kept him focused and driven and had taught him more than any lessons we might give him could. I hope other Pakistani kids can look at him and realize that the world of sports doesn't start and end with cricket, that because we care about academics doesn't mean we're all doomed to be failures as athletes. More than anything, I hope he can make it in the end, make it to an NBA team and realize his dream. One day, maybe I'll be watching him in a live game and as I cheer, I'll remember the sort of passion my little brother shows for basketball.

Cover Image Credit:

Related Content

Facebook Comments