By Ross Hawley, Playced February 12, 2016
A mild Sunday afternoon. Early January of 1992, in the batting cages at Falcon Field, Air Force Academy, Colorado. I was 13. After taking my first round of batting practice, I stepped out of the cage and knelt down to watch my twin brother, Ryan, take his first round. As I watched my dad pepper the zone with strikes, allowing Ryan to perfect his swing with each pitch; that was my moment. That is the moment I realized how much I loved playing the game. That is the moment I decided that I wanted to play college baseball.
I think most of you high school recruits can relate my “gotta play in college” moment with your “gotta play in college” moment, because a passion for the sport we play is what drives us to reach the highest levels. But passion alone will not land you a college roster spot. Passion, with a relentless commitment to doing what it takes is what will get you there. Once you decide you want to play in college, make another commitment to the process of becoming a college athlete. Are you doing what it takes? Consider the following questions to find out.
Are you committed to getting better?
Widely considered the best defensive end in the NFL, J.J. Watt is quoted as saying “Success isn’t owned, it’s leased. And rent is due every day.” Think about what that really means. Sure, Watt is an extremely gifted athlete, blessed with a combination of size, strength and speed. But you know what, so is every other athlete at that level. What makes Watt so unique is that he understands his pursuit of being the best he can be, day in and day out, is a never-ending journey. He understands that being the best is not just about getting there, it is about staying there and going further.
When it comes to your desire to play your sport in college, are you committed to being the best athlete you can possibly be? Do you show up early to practice or stay late to get extra reps? Do you go to every practice and attend every weight room session? The bottom line is this: you know whether or not you are maximizing your athletic potential. Without hesitation, you should answer “yes” to this question if you want to play in college!
Are you committed to being a good student?
I will be the first to admit, school is not exactly fun all of the time. In fact, I think it is safe to say that sometimes, you recruits spend more time on the “athlete” side of student-athlete than you do on the “student’ side. I completely understand that your pursuit of a college athletic career means you have to work your tail off to be the best athlete you can be. I will caution you though; if you are not properly balancing your academic and athletic careers, that has got to change immediately!
We have all seen the numbers and I probably don’t even need to say it, but the chances of a college athlete going pro are low. Really low. That said, approach your goal of becoming a college student with the same energy and passion you approach your goal of becoming a college athlete. And here’s an FYI: just because an athletic program wants you does not mean that you are good to go. That school’s admissions office has the final say on whether or not you will attend that school. If you don’t make the grade or you are not eligible, you won’t be playing your sport in college.
Are you one of the top players on your team?
I contemplated not even putting this question on here, but I think this is a question all high school athletes wanting to play in college should answer with a “yes”. Let me start by saying I understand that there are exceptions to every rule and there have been athletes that have gone on to play in college that weren’t mega successful in high school. Typically speaking, that does not happen. If you really want to become a college athlete, you have to have a successful high school career. That usually means you have to be one of the top players on your team. The vast, vast, vast majority of college athletes were impactful, varsity starters in high school. If you can’t answer “yes” to this question, don’t expect athletic scholarships to come rolling in.
Are you willing to sacrifice?
Being a college athlete will be one of the greatest experiences of your life. From the team comradery, to the free gear, to being the big man (or woman) on campus; there is nothing quite like playing in college! At the same time, it will also be an experience full of sacrifices, on your part. Your time will be consumed with practices, games, conditioning/weightlifting, study-tables and on and on and on. I am not telling you that any of those things are bad, I am just giving you a “heads-up” on what you can expect. For most aspiring college athletes, sacrifice is a word you are well-aware of. But for those of you athletes that want to play in college that haven’t contemplated what your daily life will look like, I suggest you do so. All great things come with some form of sacrifice! The same can be said about being a college athlete.