We spoke with former multi-sport athlete and Advocates for Athletes President Steve Britschgi to find out how college-bound athletes should be preparing for the next level of competition. At this point in the year, those high school seniors who will be playing a sport in college should already know where they're headed—but how do they prepare? Britschgi steps in with these pointers:
Patch: How should high school seniors who already have a spot on a college team finish out their year?
Britschgi: The main thing is to graduate from high school. A lot of kids get senioritis and it happens that kids screw up and they do something their senior year of high school where they might get into trouble—for example, with alcohol, or getting a DUI—it could take their scholarship away. Finish up with strong grades and make sure that you're clean.
P: How should students physically prepare themselves for athletics at the collegiate level?
B: Definitely step up your workout programs and get serious about what you're doing. Contact the coach of the school and find out what their physical expectations are of you. Most coaches will supply the incoming students with a summer workout—a pamphlet, or guidebook, or a workout program that they need to adhere to.
They think that they might be ready – my son was the only freshman on his college team this year, at 18 years old. Other kids were 21, 22 years old, and they're much more men. Don't be intimidated, but expect that. Email your future teammates and find out what it's all about. Ask questions and get yourself prepared both physically and mentally to go up against kids that are older, stronger and more mature. The student athlete that doesn't do any of this and goes about their high school workout program may be lost when they get to college.
P: Is there something student athletes can do to mentally prepare themselves for the college level?
B: Research the school. Go online and learn as much about the school as you can. Even if a student athelete has visited a school once, they're usually so excited on their official tour, they don't remember everything that they saw. Go online and do a virtual tour of the school. Get a sense of where everything is so you don't seem totally lost when you get there.
P: What should Division I athletes be thinking, compared to Division III athletes?
B: Division I sports is a lot more intense than Division III. Division III is a little more laid back, the seasons aren't as long –the school wants their students to be well-rounded, where education and sports are equal. Division I is very intense, it's almost like a job. There's a lot of disucssion that Division I atheletes who bring in a lot of money for their school should get paid. I don't think they should get paid. They're sometimes getting a $200,000 education. That's pay enough.
P: What about student athletes who are moving to a new climate?
B: [At Advocates for Athletes], I sit down with the students and ask them, are you a cold weather person, are you a hot weather person, where do you want to go and where do you see yourself? If they don't like the cold, it's not going to be a very good fit for them if they go to Boston College. Training is more important for the athletes who are going to higher altitudes, like Colorado Springs. Altitude training – training where the altitude is higher – before the start of the season is important.
P: What advice do you have for high school juniors, sophomores and freshmen looking to play sports in college?
B: Start the process as early as you can. Don't wait for your senior year. There are so many schools and so many opportunities out there, its important to take your time and look at all the possibilities, not jut the ones close to home. It is a relationship building process. You need to reach out to coaches. To build any relationship, it takes time.
P: Tell us a bit about Advocates for Athletes.
B: Advocates for Athletes educates the student athletes on the college process. Then we set up a whole marketing program for the athletes. We research schools together and come up with a list of, say, 50 schools and we start reaching out to those coaches. We create a highlight film, build a resume, write an intro letter together with the student. As an athlete, you're trying to find a school that is the right social, athletic and academic fit. That takes some doing. Our goal is for an athlete to be happy where they are.