Years of stress about getting recruited, getting seen, getting playing time, getting recognized and getting offers has players entering the collegiate playing world in a broken mindset. The end result of all that drive is not the social media declaration or the day you’re handed a jersey. The end result of that hard work is not a destination, it is the beginning of a long, difficult, but rewarding journey. It has nothing to do with getting anything, and everything to do with giving the result of all that hard work to a group of athletes who all dreamed that same dream to become something incredible together. The coaches who chose you? They chose your potential. No one is recruited to come stay the same and play as they did in high school. The work isn’t done, it hasn’t even scratched the surface. The act of being recruited is all about racing towards the opportunity to join a bigger race.
The problem with all that focus on getting a spot on the perfect team, is that often when the time comes to get to work and all the announcements, gear handouts, Instagram Pics and stories are over, it no longer feels like the prize that was built up in the athletes’ heads. It doesn’t feel like a trophy! It maybe even feels a little like punishment, and work that’s beyond what’s been done before, stress, and disappointment because it’s not perfect or even close. “The coach loved me when she recruited me, but now the season has started, and I can’t do anything right!” could be muttered by almost every freshman on the pitch.
The athlete turnover rate or drop off rate at many programs is very real, even the great ones, because the expectation and reality of playing collegiate lacrosse is being overshadowed and downplayed by the excitement of announcing the coveted offered roster spot.
Here are five tips to get your mindset prepared for what’s ahead so that you can have a rewarding collegiate career. Enjoy the announcement BUT save your real excitement for the journey that’s coming ahead in your next four years. Because it’s the journey that holds the real prize, the joy, and the memories. It’s the process that builds sustainable grit, commitment, success, and growth. It’s the daily interactions and triumphs over obstacles that take a little girl’s dream and turn it into an experience that she’ll remember and cherish for a lifetime. It’s not a destination, it’s an adventure!
- Train at the level you want to play for, now. If waking up at 5 am for lifting followed by running all before breakfast and then a full day of classes, study hall, and finishing the night with a rigorous practice seem like torture now, then you may want to reconsider your plans. You won’t suddenly be all about it just because you’re in college.
- Practice building relationships with your teammates and classmates, especially the ones you struggle to mesh with. Because your ability to contribute to a great team culture is held back by strained relationships and cliques. If you find fault with many people on your team now, you won’t be better off on your new team. Those personalities exist everywhere, and you’ll struggle even more when the pressure is double. It’s not about needing a new team, but about being a better and more effective teammate yourself.
- As Jon Gordon says, be a dose of vitamin C instead of a Germ. When things get hard, be the positive voice that gets people rallied behind encouragement and belief rather than a complainer. Your enjoyment during your collegiate career is hinged completely on how you choose to view every situation, and your influence on the team is a big piece to your program’s overall success.
- Reframe every struggle from being an obstacle to an opportunity. Playing time, injuries, personality differences, misunderstandings, and mistakes are all opportunities to make you a better person, teammate, and athlete. Train yourself to find the lesson in the disappointments before they derail you. Then, tackle those opportunities with action and excitement at what’s to come.
- Be grateful in everything. For every athlete who gets that spot to play in college, there are several who never realized that dream. They may not have had the exposure, the athleticism needed, or they weren’t encouraged, and they quit, or they had career-ending injuries, or a life catastrophe, and some maybe didn’t get to live long enough to live the dream out. For every one of those girls who didn’t get to put on the jersey you have hanging in your locker, fill yourself with gratitude no matter what you are facing. It’s not fun to run in 30-degree weather before the sun is up when you had to study late and have a cold. It can be miserable, but it’s also a gift. Because that training is an opportunity so many others wished for and it means that come game day, you’re going to pile into that bus with your teammates and live the dream. Every day you get up and get to be a part of something you worked so hard for is an opportunity to say “I GET TO” do this today! But don’t wait until college, start practicing gratitude right now for your high school team, imperfections and all!
For all the work you put in to find the best fit for you academically and athletically, don’t neglect the work in mindset that will help you love the journey all the way through and get the most out of it. That NLI isn’t the goal, it’s a gateway and you must be prepared for what’s on the other side, so you can find the real reward.