High-school Student Athletes’ Perspectives on the Transition to College Life

Image attribution: By Tommy Gilligan, CC BY 2.0 DEED, https://www.flickr.com/photos/west_point/5500763836/

Playing a sport while being a student is a massive time commitment, especially during high school, when class takes up the entire day. Students have to manage practice and games with demanding class hours, academics, and various other responsibilities they may have. 

It was mostly two-and-a-half hour practices every day with around two games a week lasting usually around three hours, with warmups included,” said Fransisco Cardenas, first-year student at UCLA. 

Cardenas played lacrosse throughout his four years in high school. When friends of his started to play, he wanted to join as well, so he did.  

“I played for 4 years of high school…The first friends I made at my high school played it so I started too,” said Cardenas. 

Cardenas wants to try out for the UCLA Lacrosse team next year, because he misses the experience of a student-athlete, which, he felt, had a really positive impact on him through decreased stress and anxiety.  

“I want to try out for the UCLA Lacrosse team next year. I had a lot of fun playing in high school, but didn’t play here because I was worried about the time commitment and my size. I miss playing a sport. I like having something very clear there besides school that I can care about and put effort into. I think it helps take away stress and anxieties throughout the day,” said Cardenas. 

Conversely, Preston, a first-year student at UCLA, wouldn’t play a sport for the opposite reason; its demanding time commitments and overall workload. 

I wouldn’t play a sport in college because I feel like the course load in college is definitely more intense, and I think having to train throughout the week and having games is very time-consuming and wouldn’t be something I would want to interfere with my academic career,” said Preston. 

Preston was on his high school’s swim team, which had a massive time commitment as well. He was on a swim team for a total of five years, and like Cardenas, friends were a part of why he enjoyed it.

“In high school I trained five days a week for around two hours each practice and occasional meets on the weekends that took half a day. I did swim because of the progress that I was seeing when I swam during events after putting in the time and effort when training and also having friends on the team with you,” said Preston.

Sean Pecore was also on his high school’s swim team for all four years, and also wouldn’t want to continue playing a sport in college.

“I would not play a sport in college because there’s too much stuff going on, and I could not do a sport at the same time,” said Pecore.

In college, the biggest similarity in all of these former student-athletes is the increased free time in their schedules. Because of the massive time commitment they had throughout four years of high school, they see a big difference in the amount of free time they had regained since stopping.

“It’s a lot more free time for sure, that’s the biggest difference,” said Pecore.

Cardenas found the time useful, in the sense that it’s easier to focus on schoolwork now. “It’s pretty noticeable since a huge part of your schedule is suddenly gone. Also I think it’s easier to focus on schoolwork when you have other productive activities besides just school,” said Cardenas.

Preston explained that the shift from playing a sport to no longer playing one was nice, and, because of it, he’s able to focus more on work, his hobbies, and spending time with others.

“The shift from playing a sport in school to school without sport feels nice because I have a lot more time allocated for studying and time with friends. Now I feel like I have a lot more time to myself when it comes to studying, hanging with friends, and doing my hobbies,” said Preston.

Playing a sport in high school means a lot to students, especially with staying active and hanging out with friends, but that doesn’t always translate to wanting to continue during college. The shift is noticeable, and increased responsibilities as students grow older consume enough of their time to make continuing to play a sport impractical. Without one, students can focus more on work and enjoy free-time without the pressure of practice or competitions. 

About The Author

Akshaj Mehta is currently a first year at UCLA, as a political science major. He is a published author with 5 published books, the most recent titled The Butterfly Effect in collaboration with non-profit KidsFirst Roseville. He has written for the N Magazine of Natomas and Sacramento School Beat in the past. His passion for writing has been a central part of his life ever since he was young, and is excited to continue his writing journey.

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