This guest post comes from my good friend Pat Donovan who has worked as a strength and conditioning coach and is currently a pitching/assistant coach at Assumption College in the greater Worcester area. Enjoy!
Going to college can be tough, especially for someone who is playing collegiate athletics. You are pretty much starting over, essentially hitting the reset button to everything you have done in high school. Being back at the bottom of the totem pole, and the new guy on campus. Being away from home, most student athletes will not have any experience about the college life, and how to handle themselves inside and outside of the classroom. As a former student athlete, and now college coach, here are 15 guidelines that will help all the “rookies” give them their best chance to succeed.
#1. FAMILY, ACADEMICS, AND ATHLETICS
This is how you are going to life your life for at least the next four years of your life. Family comes before anything! Blood is thicker than water, never forget that! If you do not do well in the classroom, you will not be playing your sport.
#2. GO TO CLASS!!!
I know this might sound ridiculous, but the fact of the matter is that most freshman are ineligible academically is because they do not go to class. If you don’t go to class you are going to be lost when it comes to test and homework. Showing up is half the grade (believe it or not!). Mommy and Daddy are not here to wake you up, take responsibility for yourself and get to class.
#3. KNOW YOUR PROFESSORS
Introduce yourself to all of your teachers the first week of school. Tell them that you play athletics at the school. Teachers will respect you for it, and most of them will work with you as best they can when classes have to be missed. Some of them are even ex-student/athletes themselves, and this is a great way to build a good relationship, connections, and well as a possible good reference.
#4. ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE
Get into a routine ASAP when you figure out your school and practice/game schedule. Figure out what works best for you, whether it is before or after practice. Get as much accomplished in the offseason academically. Get your GPA as high as possible, because when in-season, you will miss class and might fall behind as a result. Keep that cumulative GPA high!
#5. EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM
I know everyone needs his or her beauty rest, so get to bed early! Take as many early classes as possible. By doing this you will have less of a chance having a conflict with sports and athletics. It will give you a chance to get more studying done. You will be able to attend more classes, and as a result you should get a better grade in the class. Lets be honest, no one wants to go to class after a tough practice or game.
#6. BE SMART
I mean be smart by having Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Reasonable, Timed goals for yourself academically and athletically. Challenge yourself to be a better student/athlete.
#7. THE NAME ON THE FRONT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE NAME ON THE BACK OF THE JERSEY
Not only do you represent yourself, you represent your entire team. When someone gets in trouble, the first thing people say is, “Oh yea, he/she plays on that team.” Your team is your second family; treat them like one, since you will be with them 9 out of the 12 months of the year. Your actions have a bigger consequence that you think. Don’t embarrass yourself, your family, and your team by making dumb decisions.
#8. BE A GOOD TEAMMATE! (BROTHER/SISTER)
You were a stud in high school, and were recruited to play at a higher level. Remember, everyone who is playing in college was all-conference, an all-star, etc.… just like you. Coaches will build up your ego to get you to come to the respective school. Now you have to work even harder to beat out the upper classmen that have done it already. Expect to play, but do not be discouraged or surprised when you don’t get as much playing time as you want. Do as much as you can to help the team on the bench, make the team better anyway you can!
#9. TAKE THE STRENGTH PROGRAM SERIOUSLY
The offseason is where most gains are made. In-season is maintaining what you have. The S&C program is going to prepare your body for the upcoming season. The program is designed to make you bigger, faster, and stronger for the respective sport. It is designed to help your body not to break down and help reduce injuries from occurring. It is not designed for you to look good at the beach! Would you rather look good or play good?
#10. TRAINERS ARE GOOD
Athletic trainers are there to help you. One myth is that going to the trainer makes you a wuss, or that you are weak. This is absolutely couldn’t be farther from the truth. Trainers are there to help take care of your body and to steer you in the right direction of how to get back to 100% and back on the field/court as soon as possible.
#11. BE CONFIDENT, NOT COCKY
It is good to have self -confidence, but people do not like arrogance. If upper classmen, coaches, professors, trainers, or anyone else who has been in your situation before is trying to help you, LET THEM DO IT. Even if you know the answer already let them teach you, be humble and receptive to constructive criticism. Ask questions when you have them, and be a sponge by watching how other people act and carry themselves. Remember, no one likes a smart ass!
#12. TO PARTY, OR NOT TO PARTY?
Parents are not stupid, you are in college with minimum supervision, and you are going to probably see what a Bud Light tastes like. It is ok to go out with the team and “bond”, and strengthen your relationships with your teammates. However, the longer you are out “bonding” the better the chance something bad is going to happen. After 2am nothing good is going to happen, whether is be a fight, police coming, or having too much to drink. It is ok to go out and have a good time, but make sure you take care of #1 (yourself), and if you see any of your teammates about to do something stupid, step in and help out. They might be mad at you that night, but they will respect you in the morning.
#13. SPRING BREAK, WEEKEND TRIPS, ROAD TRIPS
Be smart when you are traveling on the road for games. Chances are there are other teams of the opposite sex that might be staying in the same hotel or complex that you stay at. Some kids might have some urges or feelings to hang out with them. It’s not as publicized in college as it is in the pros, but accusations of rape do occur. This can ruin your team, your career, and life. Also, no one plans to get pregnant while playing college athletics. So just a reminder to men and women’s teams to try to keep those hormones in check and channel it onto the field/court.
#14. GOOD PEOPLE = GOOD THINGS
Surround yourself with good people. You should be smart enough to decipher between people who want to achieve and people who want to be complacent. Surround yourself with people who are going to challenge you athletically and academically. If you surround yourself with good people, good things will happen. If you surround yourself with “bad” people, you are guilty by association.
#15. NOT EVERYONE GETS A TROPHY
College athletics is not Little League. You are going to have to earn everything you get. No matter how hard you thing you are working, someone on another team is working just as hard, if not, harder than you. Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard. You only have four years left to play the sport that you love, and it will fly by quicker than you think, so make sure you leave without any regrets.
To all other high school student/athletes that are not looking at colleges yet:
PLAY MORE THAN 1 SPORT IN HIGH SCHOOL!!!
Don’t limit your athleticism, don’t specialize for a specific sport, as a result there is a higher chance that you will have an overuse issue. Coaches want athletes, not A baseball player, or A field hockey player, or A basketball player. They want someone who is well rounded, and as a result they will succeed at the higher level.
Donovan is a 2008 graduate of the UMass Lowell with a Bachelors degree in Exercise Physiology and Minor in Nutrition(Cum Laude). In his two years at Lowell, he was a two-time First Team All-Northeast-10 Conference Selection, as well as being a two-time First Team All- New England Selection. In his two years he set the program record for saves in a single season and saves in a career.
Prior to Lowell, Donovan played two years at UMass Boston, in which he was named Little East Conference Rookie of the Year and was a two time Little East All-Conference Selection as both a pitcher and outfielder.
Upon completion of his collegiate career, signed to play for the Ottawa Rapidz of the Independent Can-Am Baseball League for the summer of 2008
He coached at Lowell High and Dracut High from 2008-2010. After that he became the pitching coach for Lesley University from 2011-2013. In 2014 he was appointed to pitching coach at Assumption College in 2014, and is still currently coaching the Greyhounds.