The Give and Take of Intercollegiate Athletics

Intercollegiate Athletics

By Dan Mesure

When it comes to picking a college, some students will choose a school because of its academics, some for its parties and campus life, and others for its athletic programs. There are a plethora of benefits to playing intercollegiate sports.  Between gym perks, camaraderie and competition, the college athletic experience is usually short on dull moments.  

The most tangible advantage of being an athlete is the gym benefits. While the rest of the student body is packed into a sweaty gym filled with hand-me-down machines, the athletes are often treated to superior equipment, as well as attention from team trainers.

Another perk of playing intercollegiate sports is the team camaraderie. Since athletes have the same schedule of practices, training, games and often even meal times, they usually gain a small family away from home. Teammates will often even take the same classes so they can study together at school and on the road. 

As an athlete, the team will become your social circle, and hopefully your coaches and older teammates will be your mentors. Caitlin Sullivan, a 2007 Princeton graduate who played on the golf team all four years at the university, found the upperclassmen on the team to be a valuable resource.

“I think one of the best, and most underrated, benefits of playing sports is the bonding among different class years,” Sullivan stated in an e-mail message. “As an underclassman, I appreciated getting to know older teammates—they knew so much more about Princeton than I did, and watching them work through the challenges of the thesis and job search processes was surprisingly instructive.”

You may also find that your coach becomes a close advisor. Good coaches will take an interest in both your athletic and academic progress. After all, without good grades you will not be allowed to continue on the team. 

As is the case with most major commitments, you’ll have to make sacrifices if you decide to take part in the intercollegiate sports scene. Time with friends, family and even your Spring Break could all take a backseat to your sport.

“There were definitely nights that I had to stay in to do work as opposed to going out because of our practice/tournament schedule,” Sullivan stated. “And tournament weekends entailed being away from campus from (generally) Friday morning to Sunday night.”
Playing a sport can be a full-time job on top of your class work. With practices, games, meetings and constant travelling there may be little time to socialize with friends outside of your team. Having to travel to away games also means you will most likely miss critical class time, which could make keeping your grades up harder than it is for the average student. 

If the time commitment required for playing a serious sport is too demanding, there are other alternatives that can help keep you in playing shape and competitive. 

If you don’t want your All-American dreams to fall to the wayside, playing a club sport can help you keep the door open to playing at the NCAA level the following year by allowing you to practice and fine-tune your skills.

Club sports can be just as competitive as NCAA sports, but usually entail fewer commitments. You can still have a life outside of sports while being part of a team. It is worth noting that while club teams share a similar level of camaraderie, they will typically receive less acknowledgement – and funding – from the school, so don’t expect a parade in your honor when your team brings home the championship.

Another alternative is intramural sports. By playing intramurals you will not only have more time to concentrate on your schoolwork and social life, but you will be able to control how seriously you want to take your college sports experience. Unlike NCAA sports, in which the coach has complete control over who is on and off the team, in intramural sports students are the coaches. If you want to want to play on a team full of your friends with less of an emphasis on winning, then intramural sports are the way to go.