College athletic rosters extend beyond the set number of recruited athletes the NCAA allots them. Walk-on athletes are an integral part of the team. Every team presents an opportunity to a select few athletes that can prove themselves ready for the challenge. However, this is not a challenge that is to be taken lightly; walking on to a college athletic team is a challenge physically and mentally. You have to be your own motivator and let the love of the game be your motivation.
The physical preparation is the easiest and most gratifying. I am a rower, so my physical preparation might look a little different than other athletes. During morning practices, I would regularly ask for feedback about my technique; asking the tough questions that my pride didn’t want to hear the answer to, like: “What am I doing wrong?” My coach also served as a great resource for workout suggestions, based off of my particular areas of improvement. Two days a week I did extra pieces on the ergometer, and three days I would run. Before we were allowed to lift with the varsity team, I partnered with a redshirt football player friend of mine. He helped me with weight training, and in return I tutored him, this worked out perfectly for us. Having an ally through the process that was also trying to prove himself, made the work more manageable. It was physically exhausting but I could feel myself getting better every day. My dedication attracted the attention of my coaches and they became even more happy to help me.
The mental component is more taxing and doesn’t expire once you make the team. In being a walk-on, there are no guarantees. Despite all the work you put in, you might never be offered a scholarship, be respected as a varsity athlete, get actual playing time, or even make the team. The truth is, most walk-on athletes quit before they use all four years of their eligibility. For me, the hardest part mentally still, is finding the balance between understanding, because the recruits have years of experience over me, I may never be the best on the team, but I cannot make excuses for myself. If you hit this crossroad, it is important to remember that every member of the team is critical to team’s success, not just the all-stars.
If you are considering walking on to a college team, be proactive in contacting the coach, and prepare yourself physically and mentally. The more commitment you show to the sport, the more the coach and support staff will likely help you through the process. Find an ally to work with you, and be empowered by your progress. With hard work and mental toughness, you have the potential of becoming a major contributor to the team and even earning a scholarship.
Posted on November 16, 2016 in Life of a College Athlete
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The C.A.L.C. was thrilled to have Keirsten Sires come and speak to us on multiple topics relevant to high school athletics today, including recruiting. Keirsten reached all of our students and left them with great strategies that will not only help on the fields, courts, and mats, but also in the game of recruiting. She was a true professional and delivered a wonderful message.
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