Why do students play sports in college?

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Courtesy of Creative Commons

A birds-eye view of the Penn State stadium located in University Park, Pennsylvania.

In high school, many students show their love and dedication for sports with hours of practice a day and weekly games. Whether in the spring, fall or winter, student athletes put a lot on their plate by balancing sports, academics and social lives. Many have the motivation to pursue their sport in college and maybe further, but what factors influence their decision?

Junior Mia Kemp maintains a captain position for the women’s varsity soccer team at Stephen Decatur High School and has had the goal of playing soccer in college until questioning it recently. Though she recognizes that continuing to play soccer at a collegiate level will reap some benefits, she also mentions committing to a team in college is a huge responsibility

“I am not 100 percent sure because of different factors,” she said. “For one being, I want to become a doctor and I don’t know if that will be too much to juggle everything.”

For the majority of colleges, being a part of a sports team means several hour long practices a day, having to take amazing care of your body and traveling for games. Whether devoting this time and effort is worth it can vary depending on an athletes goals. Kemp, for example, wants a career involving many time consuming classes and years of hard work, making her question whether both playing on a sports team and rigorous classes are feasible. But for others, this endeavor might be perfect.

Senior Emma Meyer has committed to a Division I college in North Carolina after playing on the women varsity lacrosse team for four years.

“At the start of ninth grade it was time to start thinking about the continuance of my lacrosse career at the collegiate level,” she said. “There were some ups and downs especially when COVID-19 hit, and the recruiting process was put on hold, but I am so thankful over the winter I was able to verbally commit to Gardner-Webb University. I am so excited to start this next chapter of my life.”

Playing a sport in college can offer many assets to new and incoming freshman. Living and playing with your team everyday gives students a built-in community, something new members of colleges sometimes struggle to find. Those relationships you build with your teammates, coaches, administrative staff and professors will continue after your four years of playing. They will be people to give references on your résumé, help with getting job opportunities.

Another driving factor that pushes many high-school athletes to try to get recruited is financial aid. Annual tuition for colleges is gradually increasing, causing more and more students to strive for any kind of scholarship they can receive. Whether it be a full ride or just a partial scholarship, hours of work trying to be noticed by coaches are put in to reach this goal.

Junior Kayla Brady has played both recreational and club lacrosse since the age of five and previously had her mind set on playing in college as well. This past year however, she has realized the majority of her motivation came from pressure to earn a scholarship.

“Lacrosse used to be fun and I love playing the game,” she said. “But the past few years it became way more about the money and politics of everything, I got burnt out. I was very sad to make the decision of not playing in college but I just think it’s the best for me.”

While nearly all student athletes work hard to maintain good grades and practice every day, numerous factors can contribute to the decision to taking an athletic career further and playing a sport at the collegiate level. It seems athletes make the best decision for themselves by weighing  the factors and deciding what their long term goals are.