We see their videos on social media…toddlers swinging golf clubs, kicking field goals, or winning swimming competitions. For many athletes, they start at an early age when participating in sports is just ‘fun’ and a way to burn off adolescent energy.
We learn about sportsmanship, winning/losing, and the mantra of ‘practice makes perfect. All of these experiences are intended to benefit any child as they move into adulthood, even if an individual’s time on the playing field just becomes recreational later in life.
Love Of The Game
I started playing golf at the age of seven but also played on football and basketball teams while in middle school. Being taller than most of my classmates made me a target for recruitment by coaches in the hallways. I can say that it was a great experience to be part of a team, but there is also a benefit to being in a sport where you only rely on yourself for results.
Knowing my true love was golf, I decided to focus my attention on this one sport while in high school, plus I learned that playing this non-contact sport resulted in fewer trips to the doctor! I truly enjoyed myself on the course when practicing, in tournament play, or just sharing around with my father…which were the best memories!
Next Level Athlete
There is another level of athlete who competes year-round, enlists private coaching, practices in all weather conditions, works out relentlessly, and has an inner drive to be the best in their chosen sport. These student-athletes have the potential to reap the benefits from their hard work by earning college scholarships and possibly making it to the professional level, but it is also important to realize that they also sacrifice many things in pursuit of their dreams.
The percentage of time spent practicing as compared to the actual competition is much higher than most realize, so this commitment is real, with only a fraction of time in the public spotlight. These students must be superior time managers, since balancing academics, family, friends, recreation, sleep, and sports can be very challenging, especially if trying to be successful in each area. Not many can juggle all these balls at once without something falling to the floor.
Collegiate scouts did not bang on my front door about playing golf, but when I learned that I would be able to walk on to my college’s team, this was wonderful news. This invite did not come with a scholarship attached (much to my parents’ disappointment), but it did mean that I would be able to continue to compete…playing free golf throughout the State of Florida on some amazing courses. The price for my membership on the team was the commitment to practicing, competing, and representing my school in the community, even though they were not ‘paying’ me with a scholarship.
If I had a ‘full-ride’ athletic scholarship I would have needed to fulfill all expectations for participation on the team and if I decided to leave the team to focus on my academics, my scholarship would disappear. Scholarships come with conditions, so if a student does not fulfill the guidelines, it can be revoked, which might also affect the student’s ability to afford the cost to remain. Athletics can be a vehicle that helps a student/family reduce the cost of attendance at their school of choice, but it also comes with the expectation of academic success and commitment to participation in the sport. I ‘retired’ from the team after my freshman year, as the time commitment was competing with academic goals and other extracurricular activities within my college community.
A tiny fraction of Pee-Wee league players will become collegiate recruits. Only a small number of college athletes will become professionals signing multi-million-dollar contracts at the age of 20 or 21. What is most important is to take the lessons of athletic participation and apply them in your life, family, and work, as the same energy it takes to hone skills through practice, persistence, and competition will be the tools that last a lifetime.