More Than An Athlete: Benefits of College Sports

On the surface, I think college sports can seem like a waste of time and effort to some people, especially if that athlete is not continuing their sport at the professional level. It is very hard to see the long-term benefits of making that type of commitment in college if they have no intention of a career out of it in the future. While some people may agree with those statements, I want to briefly discuss some of the underlying benefits of college sports that most collegiate athletes would probably agree with me on.

I’ve seen plenty of my fellow student-athletes find job opportunities through athletics by simply making connections through their athletic department or other departments within the NCAA. Having prior college athletics experience can lead to opportunities in coaching, personal training, sports information, becoming a director of athletics, or even working directly within the NCAA.

Whether an athlete is working in sports or not, they have still developed very transferable skills while playing their sport. Time management is probably one of the most important skills in being a student-athlete. Balancing practice, games/meets/matches, class, homework, jobs, clubs, and social life can all be valuable in the workplace (if they’re each done well of course). Being able to effectively handle all of these responsibilities can show employers that you are capable of effectively taking on a number of different tasks at once. This is why it is also just as important to be involved in different things on and off campus to show your versatility.

Teamwork is also a very transferable skill in the workplace. Being a part of a sports team can exemplify how well a person can work with others. Even being a captain of a team can show employers that a person has leadership qualities and can take on important roles in the workplace.

Many college sports teams also do a good job of giving back to the community. Quality coaches will organize service days for their teams and do some type of community service a few times a year. It is important that student-athletes note these experiences when applying for jobs, while also capitalizing on these days of service by giving back to the community on their own time. Joining clubs on campus that facilitate these types of events are great ways to get involved. Some of these clubs are even exclusively made for student-athletes (and if you don’t have one, you could always make one).

I think it’s important that student-athletes recognize their value before it’s too late. Many of them have been given the label of “college athlete” for so long that it becomes the only thing they identify themselves as. Then, by the time they realize that the student-athlete life won’t last forever, it’s too late. It’s crucial that all student-athletes understand that they’re more than that, and that they must find their own identity outside of their respective sport.

Is College Really Worth It?

In this day and age, there are plenty of debates about whether college is necessary to further your career. With many jobs becoming obsolete because of computers, apprenticeships, entrepreneurs, and lower demands for college education, many careers don’t require college educations.

Now this is not to say that a college degree (associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, etc.) isn’t valuable. I think it all depends on a person’s career path. For years we’ve seen just as many people drop out of college or even completely skip college and have successful careers, as we’ve seen college graduates become successful in their field of interest.

Athletes like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James completely skipped college and went straight to the NBA out of high school. Both of them have now gone on to receive multi-million dollar endorsements and have even started to pursue their own business ventures. Even some of our most notable creators in technology like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college before pursuing their own creative ideas. But what do these four men have in common? They were all able to find their niche, figure out the means to pursue it, and capitalize on their success. For Kobe and LeBron, their niche was playing the game of basketball. Their means to pursue the highest level of basketball (the NBA) did not require a college education (at least not until 2006). For Jobs and Zuckerberg, they were able to find their niche in computer/software programming and engineering. At that time, the means to pursue the field did not directly require them to complete their college education. As a result, they were both able to make technological advancements that were revolutionary.

While pursuing your passion is the one of the most rewarding feelings, I think finding that passion may be the most difficult for some. It’s much easier to make the next step towards your goals if you have direction, but if you don’t, you may be stuck finding out what you were put on this earth to do. On the other side, some people have their passion figured out, but lack the resources to pursue it. Maybe they can’t afford college, or can’t afford to purchase the tools they need to succeed.

At the end of the day, there really doesn’t seem to be a set blueprint on how much education you need to further your career. It also seems like society is beginning to push the importance of college education to the side, especially with the rise in tuition prices and the rise of people building their own businesses. So whatever career path a person should choose, I think it’s important to find your niche and do whatever you can to be the best qualified man or woman for the job.

Post-Grad Depression: Is it Real?

It has been about two months since I have graduated from undergrad, and I definitely believe that the idea of post-grad depression can truly exist for some people. While graduating from college is a tremendous accomplishment, it can also be very difficult and fearful for young adults. Graduation is a transitional period in most people’s lives. Moving on from college life into the real world can be smooth and exciting for some, but very slow and stressful for others.

Like most transitional periods in a person’s life, they require a lot of self-reflection and finding yourself. Most graduates are now seeking out their true identity and purpose within the world. With all of the freedoms and options that come with graduating college, it can also be just as difficult to pinpoint exactly what path to take.

Post-grad life also comes with a complete change in one’s lifestyle. During the four years (or more) of college, most students are always busy and constantly on the move. Whether its going from class to class, working, playing a sport, or doing homework, students are constantly practicing time management. Most (but not all) students also have many of their essential and basic needs paid for. Some may be on full or partial scholarships to attend their college or university, have meal plans, and/or have their room and board paid for by their parents. For the most part, students’ lives are also constructed within the confines of their campus. Their is little need for them to leave the campus, or stray to far from it. That can also leave them out of touch with reality, or at least what’s going in the rest of the world.

In real life however, this lifestyle is drastically different. Most graduates are moving back home or moving into their own place. Some may have too much free time, while others are now on a set schedule about five days a week with their new careers. A lot of graduates are also transitioning from having a lot of their essentials paid for, to beginning to pay bills and provide for themselves (even though most of us are still broke). They may be moving away from friends they had in college, or even be drifting away from the isolation they had so much of while living on a college campus. Even more graduates are preparing for the transition to grad school or possibly planning for it in the future.

These change can be both drastic and pivotal for young adults. The position/situation a graduate is in now may not be the same one they are in within the next year or two. Everyone has a different path, no path is better than the next, and none of these paths are set in stone (at least this is what I try to assure myself). I just think it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in dealing with the process.

Psychology in the Sports World

Oftentimes, athletic sports are not considered to be very “mental” games. Instead, we think of mental games as strategy-based; games that require the most focus and require players to think steps ahead of their opponent (chess, checkers, etc.). It is very rare that physically demanding sports like football, soccer, and basketball are believed to be equally as demanding psychologically. As a former college track & field athlete, these beliefs are far from the truth. I have seen first hand how sports that require peak physical performance are a product of being mentally prepared as well.

The mental toll athletes deal with doesn’t just begin on the day of competition. In fact, it traces all the way back to the long hours of training that lead up to it. Training for hours, days, weeks, and months at a time can be difficult. Early morning workouts, two-a-days (or even three-a-days if you’re lucky), thousands of repetitions, and still finding the time/energy to get through the day can only be successfully completed with a resilient mind and motivated attitude. These athletes are constantly pushing their bodies and minds to the limit to get positive results.

Even as recently as last year, we’ve seen top tier professional athletes like Kevin Love and DeMar Derozan come out about their dealings with anxiety and depression. In turn, we’ve seen the rise in demand for sports psychologists and other mental health experts in the professional sports world. Even colleges are beginning to see its importance. The narratives that “pro athletes are making too much money to be depressed” and “as a famous athlete you have to be thick-skinned” are slowly starting to die down. More and more sports fans are beginning to understand that these athletes are real people who go through real mental problems.

Anybody still skeptical? Well think about this: As anyone who has played sports in their lifetime, what kind of space were you in mentally when you had your best performances? What were you thinking about? Most people will say that they in fact, had an absence of thought. Their mind was focused on nothing but the task at hand, with little to no distractions. If this is true for any of you, you were most likely practicing mindfulness. This is an instance where a person focuses the mind on being present and aware of what is going on at that exact moment, while also eliminating distractions. This practice is very common in meditation, another skill that sports psychologists and other mental health specialists alike use to help their clients both focus and relieve stress.

If mindfulness has helped you perform at your best, it’s reasonable to assume that some of your worst performances were due to lack of focus. Maybe your mind was elsewhere, or you were flooded with different thoughts and emotions at that time. This same feeling can happen to all of us, even the greatest athletes in the world. So who’s to say sports aren’t mental games?

Mental Health Over a Lifetime

Mental Health Over a Lifetime

As we age and go through different stages in our life, we often deal with certain day-to-day encounters in our environment that may effect our mental health. While some encounters may be more minor or major than others, they all differ from person to person. In addition, they have the power to influence how we view not only ourselves, but also everyone and everything around us. Erik Erickson’s eight stages of psychosocial development take us through the ways we mentally adapt to our surroundings.

Read More