Only about 7% of all high school athletes go on to play a collegiate sport. Whether that sport is Division 1 or NAIA, it’s still a huge accomplishment that takes up much of students’ lives. Rowland Hall has sent countless students to compete in college and the next level, including the Olympics. The path students take to play collegiately is extremely strenuous and takes serious commitment and sacrifices. The different collegiate divisions vary based on commitment; for example, former students Anna Fukushima and Giselle Bodeen play D3 soccer at Occidental College and Lewis and Clark, respectively, and explain that even though soccer is still a major commitment, they have the leeway to focus more on academics than if they played D1. Camryn Kennedy and Summer Connery, both current seniors at Rowland Hall, have committed to play D1 soccer at Southern Utah University and Colgate University respectively. Summer states that playing soccer “will require [her] to stay vigilant with [her] academics because of the rigorous soccer schedule.” For this article, I interviewed student-athletes who play soccer about the difficult process of becoming a collegiate player and the sacrifices those students made in their high school years.
The process of getting recruited to play soccer is long and arduous. Athletes who love their sport and want to continue playing in college first need to decide what division they want to play in. These athletes need to choose a college far before their peers, forcing them to make a decision earlier in their high school careers. Despite their early decisions, there are many benefits to the commitment. Anna Fukushima explains that her “college process was very easy. [She] only had to apply to Occidental and the University of Utah as a backup. [Her] spot at Oxy was pretty much secured.” Depending on the athlete’s skill level and work ethic, the difficulty of getting recruited varies. Some athletes need to constantly keep in contact with coaches and reach out first, while some are reached out to by the institutions, and other processes are very easy. When describing her experience, Giselle Bodeen stated, “My coach just gave me a spot right away, which simplified the process. Being able to reach out to coaches and getting help from Bobby Kennedy was really important as well.” These two athletes are loving their school experience and continue to excel in their sport.
Despite the benefits of playing a sport in college, student-athletes were forced to make sacrifices in order to get where they are. The commitment it takes to play a sport in college requires students to miss school and social events. Giselle explains that in high school she dedicated “a lot of time going to practice and training so [she] missed out on things like dances.” Summer agreed and said that “showcases were always out of state and a few days long which meant that [she] often had to miss school.” In my own experience, junior year is when you need to start getting more serious, and I missed the spring formal this year to go to a college showcase with my team. I also missed a couple of days of school, so I needed to stay diligent in my schoolwork to compensate. Even though I miss many social events and have less time for leisurely activities, the prospect of playing soccer in college outweighs the sacrifices.
There are many benefits of playing in college, which for many athletes vastly outweigh the sacrifices it takes to get there. For example, if you love your sport, you get to continue it throughout college on a higher level. Additionally, playing a team sport guarantees a community because the team bonding activities and games themselves allow opportunities to get closer to new people and people who have already been at the school for years. Anna explained that her love for One Direction helped her make friends on the soccer team as a lot of the girls also had an obsession with the band. Now they go to social events around the school together and are more comfortable socializing with others. Summer Connery stated that she “loved the girls at Colgate and can see [herself] making friends with them very quickly.” A lot of students have trouble adjusting to the new environment of college, but playing a sport can help them assimilate and thrive during their first year of college.
Student-athletes work incredibly hard to succeed not only in their sport but also in academics. The process of getting recruited can be long, but it varies based on the athlete, and they need to make sacrifices that their peers do not. Playing college sports can help the student later in life with being able to manage their time well and stay organized despite a whirlwind of activities going on in their lives. The benefits of playing sports in college are immense even if it takes a lot of effort to get there. Additionally, the college-application process itself, which takes a long time to complete, becomes easier, as once committed, the athlete has a guaranteed spot. Playing at any level in college is an impressive accomplishment not only because of the high level of play but also because of all the work these athletes do to get there.