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Tips on Transitioning From High School to College Sports

You can prep for the transition from high school to college all you want, and there will still be a learning curve when you get there. With that said, preparing for that transition can only help you. For many, freshman year of college sports can come at you fast. You have a new and very full schedule to keep up with, and you're away from home, so how can you make this transition as easy as possible? A few retired college athletes discuss what they wish they knew going not their freshman year of college.


This second episode of The Panel focuses on the transition from high school sports to college athletics. The guests discuss some of the struggles of their transition and what they wish they would have known or done before college.

This episode sheds light on how the new schedule of college athletes can be difficult to adjust two. From weights, to classes, to practice, study hall, and more, college athletics is demanding, and time management and the ability to compartmentalize are key for any athlete's success.

In addition to that, many athletes grapple with underperforming. This may come about because they are playing against more advanced levels of competition. But then there is also homesickness. While this is not unique to college athletes, it's important to remember that college athletes are just like other students and may find themselves missing home and family during the transition.

Again, some of these things you can't prepare for, they either happen, or they don't. But being knowledgeable about the possibility of them happening to you is key to setting up systems and support to ensure that you are successful.

Key Points

1. Find Community With Your Team

It can be hard to build true community with your teammates. You don't always want to be vulnerable in front of them because your sport requires you to be tough, and in your mind, it may make you seem weaker to open up. But truly, your teammates are the only people who know what you're going through on any given day because they're going through it with you.

Your mom and dad don't know. Your best friend that doesn't play sports doesn't know. And even your best friend on another team won't fully understand. Your teammates go through everything with you. Every conditioning workout, every weightlifting session, and every practice, so don't be afraid to build community with them and be vulnerable because that could be the support you need the most during your transition.

2. Get Involved on Campus

As a college athlete, juggling your sport and academics can be hard enough, but even still, I encourage you to get involved in other things outside of your sport. You may feel like you don't have time, but in the moments when your sport isn't going very well for you, you'll want an outlet. Also, this helps you not solely to put your identity in your sport. You are a whole person who plays your sport. You are not your sport. Therefore, you should explore other aspects of yourself to keep learning and grow as a person and provide an outlet from the grind that is being a student-athlete.

3. Prioritize Your Mental Health

Mental health should be your number one priority. We spend so much time making sure we are physically fit, but college athletics pushes you just as hard mentally as it does physically. It could be beneficial to explore counseling before college, just to talk through your mindset. How do you handle adversity? What do you think will be your biggest struggles? Are you nervous about this transition? Counseling can uncover performance anxiety and other underlying issues that you didn't know were there. By catching it early, you can figure out ways to cope or treat it so that it doesn't flare up when you're under more stress and pressure.

4. Time Management Is Key

The schedules of college athletes are packed. From lift/conditioning to class, off to practice, then study hall, squeeze in dinner, finish up your homework and go to sleep just to do it all over again. The tight schedules could have anyone feeling like they're losing their mind or there simply isn't enough time, but trust me, you'll be fine, and you will get it all done. You just have to be organized and manage your time to the best of your ability.

5. Begin Lifting Before You Get to College

A common challenge for many athletes transitioning into college is strength and conditioning. Many athletes understand that they will need to be fit and able to run if that's what their sport requires, but many forget about the strength aspect. I highly recommend that you begin weight training before college, but only if you can do so with proper form and have the resources around to help you. College training programs are a different beast, and it's helpful to come in with a little experience under your belt so that the learning curve isn't so steep and your body isn't completely shocked by the sheer amount of activity required to complete at a collegiate level.

Key Quotes

  • "People outside sports often won’t get it." - Katie Mehlhorn

  • "Find a community within your team/among your teammates." - Katie Mehlhorn

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