Making the transition from high school to collegiate athletics can be a daunting and difficult task. Physical therapist Stefanie Bourassa and psychologist Peter Lucchio of the Hartford HealthCare Bone & Joint Institute’s Center for Musculoskeletal Health have several tips to help make this transition smooth.
Bourassa, who played Division I soccer at the University of Hartford, says the biggest challenges she faced were managing a busy schedule, keeping her classes and schoolwork a priority and making sure she represented her team in the best manner possible.
“Keeping up with all of the demands placed on student athletes can be intimidating,” Bourassa said. “Our day typically started at 5:30 am with workouts and a team breakfast before classes started. During the season, our classes needed to be during a certain time window because of practices, games and travel. Sometimes this meant packing in three or four classes before lunch, so learning how to manage your time effectively is extremely important.”
Dr. Lucchio reminds athletes that it’s important to understand their college experience may be quite different from that of fellow classmates and encourages them to remember why they chose this path in the first place.
“There may be times where athletes will see other students enjoying free time or other luxuries that being a competitive athlete may not afford,” he said. “Because of this, having an understanding of ‘why’ you are choosing this as an athlete can be helpful. When things become challenging, athletes can call back on their why/ their values to cope and continue with value-driven choices and behaviors.”
Additionally, Dr. Lucchio suggests that keeping a positive mindset amidst all of the pressures that student athletes face is a very important aspect of being successful.
“As a collegiate athlete, you are already under pressure to perform academically, athletically, and uphold an image socially,” he says. “Therefore, any added pressure is likely not going to help. Added pressure can often come in the form of negative self-talk. For example, saying to ourselves ‘I suck’ after a disappointing performance is condemnatory and provides an athlete with no guidance as to how to improve. Catching yourself being negative and creating growth-based re-frames of disappointment (as in, ‘I will keep doing my best and learn from this’) can be helpful.”
“There are more lessons to learn from being a college athlete than just wins and losses,” Bourassa said. “Future employers do look at resumes and see that you played a college sport and they should know that you are a team player and that you strive to give your best and make others around you better.”
For more information about how athletes of all levels can stay healthy, visit mysportshealth.org