Students and staff weigh in on the prevalence of college sports


There are currently around eight million high school students who are participating in a sport of their choice at this very moment. Of these eight million, however, only 480,000 athletes continue on to play at a higher level in college. Dreams of having the opportunity to engage in athletics in college seem to be a common theme among high-schoolers. So, what happens to the other 7,520,000 other athletes?

For people like senior Jessica Schellenboom, college sports have always been part of her long term plan. After securing her title as state champion in the Division Two state championship this season, it’s no surprise that she has already committed to swim at Liberty University, a Division One college in Virginia.

Even though her recruitment process may have been stressful, for Jessica, the ultimate end game was well worth the absences, travel, and stressful meetings with coaches and teams.

“Making a decision was stressful because it’s where you’re going to spend the [next] four years of your life,” Jessica said. “But I think having your hard work pay off and being able to take [your sport] to the next level and be with another group of girls on a team is worth it.”

Senior Grayson Norris, who is an avid rower on the crew team, has made a different decision than Jessica. When he was younger, he was sure that he would continue on to row in college, but as he grew closer to actually having to make the decision, he changed his mind.

“I would like to focus more on my academics when college comes around,” Grayson said. “I want to have my time to focus on pursuing a career rather than rowing. I think [choosing not to participate] will definitely help my mental stability because I will be able to be more flexible to do homework, and I will also have some free time to myself.”

For Jessica, she is well aware that swimming in college is going to be a major time commitment. For her, though, this fact did not deter her from choosing to pursue a college sport.

“The time commitment is a lot,” Jessica said. “[Swimming] does take a lot more time in college, and you don’t necessarily get the normal college experience, but it’s still fun. I’m most nervous for practices and what they’ll be like. I’ve heard that practices in college are really hard. But I am really happy about [swimming in college].”

Coach, history teacher, and longtime wrestler Brad Anderson has a similar viewpoint to Jessica. He wrestled for Central Michigan University and attributes much of his character and accomplishments to this decision.  

“[Wrestling in college] was incredibly tough and, at times, grueling,” Anderson said. “It was very much a huge time commitment, but it was an incredibly positive experience. I met incredible friends, I had my education paid for, and it instilled values like hard work, discipline, mental toughness, and fortitude [into me]. These are all things that help me professionally, as a father, and as a coach. College wrestling just reinforced what I had learned up until that point.”

Even though Jessica isn’t swimming in college just yet, she too shares this same mindset. She believes in the idea that sports, in general, have given her some of her most beneficial qualities as a person. Being a swimmer has given her work ethic as well as taught her how to be a leader and teammate to others.

Grayson, on the other hand, says that it’s important to remember to not let sports take away from academics because academics lead directly to a career while sports don’t always take you past college.

“Don’t let [sports] take away from other opportunities you can have,” Grayson said. “So, if you have a chance to take a course that is what you want to do with your life or to play a sport, then I would suggest taking the class instead. I think spending your time focusing on setting yourself up for the rest of your life is better than playing a sport where you will stop once college is over.”

The common theme that seems to deter people from committing to playing sports in college appears to be the threatening time commitment. While both Jessica and Anderson addressed this, they both acknowledged that committing your entire schedule to a sport in college is not the only option. Grayson says he still wants to participate in sports but doesn’t want them to take up all of his time. For people like him, club or intramural level sports seem to be the next best thing.

Anderson, who is a supporter of both varsity level as well as club sports, says that both options can be beneficial to students.

“Even club sports are worthwhile,” Anderson said. “College athletics gives you structure, it gives you almost instant friendships and connections, and it provides you with a mentor, your coach, who is someone who can help guide you through the college experience. You are also held accountable to your team, your coach, and the academic elements that come along with being on a team.”

Jessica’s views also align with this assumption as she thinks that playing intramural sports or being a walkon instead of committing can be just as beneficial. For her, the most important part of choosing whether or not to play a sport in college is to make sure you pick the right place for you.

“If you want to get something out of [the sport] and become a part of something bigger than yourself in college, I think that’s important and beneficial,” Jessica said. “It’s also important to pick a school that you feel comfortable at and not pick it just because it’s really good. You have to like the team and the people, otherwise, your experience is not going to be good.”

Overall though, it all comes down to a personal decision. Whether or not students choose to pursue their sport past high school is up to them, however, Anderson believes that everyone can benefit from playing any type of sport. Whether it be intramural, varsity, or simply getting outside with friends, getting involved in some type of athletic activity can be good for everyone. Many people dream of playing sports in college, so whether you make up the 480,000 who commit or the 7,520,000 who don’t, finding some way to get active can always be beneficial.

“People shouldn’t just go into college for the recognition,” Anderson said. “They should go because they want to continue their careers or they enjoy playing. I would encourage everyone to get involved.”