The value of playing a sport in college is difficult to measure. When you graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree and play sports, you are simultaneously graduating with a master’s degree in numerous life skills that will set you up for success in the work place and in life. Through lectures and textbooks you can learn a lot about calculus, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, and the molecular structure of plants, but the same cannot be said for virtues like accountability, perseverance, and teamwork. One set of knowledge will help you from time to time in specific situations where that specific knowledge is needed, but the other set you will need to tap into day in and day out.
A Team for Life
When talking about life after college my Dad would always say, “it’s all about who you know….” But sadly, in our insanely isolating digital age we occupy right now, making friends can be more difficult than ever. If you look around any environment where the majority of people are under 30, you’ll see heads down staring at phones. Friendships can seem superficial and surface level today for a lot of young people because Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat strip away any raw emotion and intimacy.
When you play sports in college, you and your teammates experience emotions together that you may have never experienced before. The absolute mental anguish and grit required to get through two-a-day practices in the hot August sun you experience together. The roller coaster of emotions that come from triumphant victories and crushing defeats are experienced together. The bonds that are formed on the field, rink, court, track, and gym are stronger than any digital friendship can ever come close to. Those friendships that are forged in the most difficult of circumstances will be your safety net and support system as you navigate through life after college. Former teammates will be the first to help you get back on your feet after the loss of a job. The people you got yelled at with by your former coach will be the ones you will want to stand up at your wedding and be there when tragedy strikes. The network you build on the field is something that cannot be priced.
In order to achieve anything great, you must work very hard at improving yourself, staying focused, and achieving short term goals along the way. No other program or regimen can prepare you for that mentality and that process like collegiate sports. From day one you learn about accountability and how important that is. You have a job to do, team meetings to attend (if you’re not early you’re late), and a process to learn as part of the team. After college, no matter what your job is, accountability is key to excelling and keeping your job.
To be an athlete and to make it to the next level, it’s not enough to just keep your job and to stay on the team. To be an athlete is to be a competitor. You don’t want to just be a player on the team, you want to be the best player on the team, the league, and the country. Playing collegiate sports is a master class in self-improvement. From day one you are in awe of the veterans and you tell yourself, “I’m going to take their job! I’m going to be the starter, the captain, the campus hero!” So you go out and try to be the best but you very quickly realize that you have a lot of work to do.
Through studying, practicing, spending time in the weight room, and staying confident, you eventually get to where you want to go. While putting in the work to get to that level where you envision yourself, you also deal with the reality of school work, relationships, and how you are going to afford pizza on Friday night. Just like life after college, you will need to prioritize the various facets of your life while putting in the work to improve yourself to get to where you want to go. I’d argue that no other college program, apprenticeship, or job can prepare you for that process like collegiate sports can. Employers look for experience when hiring but they also look for the intangibles that cannot be taught but must be developed. Teamwork, accountability, and aggressive drive jump out of your resume when you compete in collegiate sports.
Playing sports in college builds the strongest and most versatile human beings out of the young men and women who participate. A dollar amount cannot be placed on a network of friends who have suffered and overcome great mental and physical obstacles together. No class can teach the importance of accountability and self-improvement the way four years of college volleyball, football, tennis or water polo can. I started this by saying that the value of playing a sport in college is difficult to measure, but the reason is because the value of a collegiate sports career is invaluable.