As my collegiate career winds down, and as I watch my younger sister navigate her way through her high school career, I can’t help but look back on the days where I was once in her shoes. Although it feels like eons ago, there is a lot to be said for that four-year stretch. For any high school kid with dreams of continuing their athletic career, this is for you.
Too many times I see people wishing away their high school years (guilty). The idea of being on your own, moving away from mom and dad and living a less micromanaged lifestyle sounds glorious. College is a fresh start. College years are the best years of your life. College is freedom—college this, college that. I am not disagreeing with any of the things you might hear about college, but let’s not forget how great you have it now.
Whether your sport is great, average or straight up awful, enjoy it. Enjoy it because you are likely one of the best athletes on the floor. Enjoy it because there are little kids watching your every move, wanting to be you, when you’re basically a kid yourself. How cool is that? Enjoy it because there will never be another time where you can go from playing softball, to basketball, to soccer, then do it all over again for the next three years.
College is truly wonderful. But guess what else? College is hard. College while playing a sport is even harder. Not only is high school about enjoying every experience you’re thrown into, it’s also about understanding what it means to be on a team. You probably get annoyed with your teammates who don’t practice hard, who can’t catch your passes, who don’t really care about winning and who couldn’t care less about getting better (guilty). But there is one common denominator between you and those kind of teammates: wanting to be a part of something bigger than yourself. You are playing every minute possible while they ride the bench. Don’t complain about these teammates, learn something from them.
You know what else? Being gifted enough to play at the next level is something special— don’t take that for granted in high school either. Don’t be satisfied with being a four-year starter. Don’t be content with being the best player on your team. Don’t let the local newspaper hype get to your head. Instead, be the last person to leave practice everyday. You may have a scholarship on lock, or will eventually, but don’t spend high school basking in your own glory. It will catch up to you.
You make some of the absolute best memories with some of your best friends through high school sports. You learn how to win, you experience defeat (at a higher and more serious level than middle school), you start to see the beauty of a team and you begin to understand the necessities of a competitor. In the midst of all that, you grow a little. You have it far from figured out, but you know the basics. High school is your head start in learning these lessons. College is your time to take these lessons and run with them.
It isn’t “just high school sports.” Cherish every moment because I can promise you one thing: the next four years will go even faster.