Why Is Resourcefulness a Critical Skill for College Athletes?
Lindsey Hamilton, Assistant Head Coach of Mental Conditioning at the highly-respected IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, shared in a recent conversation with me on my Freshman Foundation podcast that the most successful college athletes exhibit resourcefulness. Well, resourcefulness is a pretty big word that can mean many things. So what does it mean in the context of the high school to college transition and why is it important?
At the simplest level, resourcefulness means identifying the resources that are available to a student-athlete on campus. Examples of resources might be academic tutors, athletic trainers, and mental health counselors. Many of these resources are introduced to incoming freshmen athletes as a routine matter of course. This might seem simple and self-explanatory. However, just because these resources are introduced to student-athletes doesn’t mean that they will know how to prioritize and optimize use of these resources to meet their needs.
The other part of resourcefulness, as I see it, is the willingness to ask for help from those providing the resources. Simply understanding that resources exist doesn’t mean that the student-athlete will get anything out of those resources. For many of us, myself included, asking for help can be really hard. We don’t ask for help because we don’t want to seem weak or we don’t want to look like we don’t know what we are doing. Sometimes, we want to ask for help, but we might not trust the person that can help us. So rather than taking a risk and humbling ourselves, we get prideful and resist asking for the help we want or need. I know this very well. I have had to absorb a lot of pain at points in my life before asking for help. However, my mission is to help young people to get the help they need before getting to this point.
For accomplished high school student-athletes, “things” often came easy. You may have experienced this with your son or daughter, or maybe as an athlete yourself. On-field performance came easily because of God-given ability. Coaches and teammates often cater to star athletes because of their ability to help the team win. Sometimes, athletes excel in social situations simply because of their status as an athlete. Academics may have come easy or may have been challenging. Either way, star high school athletes are often given the benefit of the doubt academically or given extra resources because of their athletic contributions.
So what happens when a star high school student-athlete arrives on campus? They often become an “average-sized fish in a very big pond” as Vanessa Shannon, Director of Mental Performance at the University of Louisville, also shared with me on my podcast. All of their new college teammates were stars in high school. Now, they have to compete for playing time. They may be under greater academic pressure because of increased workload and subject matter difficulty. They need to make new friends. They are on their own for the first time in their lives. For all these reasons, the transition from high school to college can be overwhelming for many, both on and off the field.
So, what can a high school student-athlete do to prepare for the transition to college athletics?
- Understand their purpose and goals for the college athletic experience. Having a clear understanding of why you are competing at the college level and what you want to accomplish will help you prioritize your actions. In theory, asking for help should be much easier if we know what asking for help will help us to achieve. Writing down a mission statement and performance goals for your freshman year can really help drive your actions in a positive way. You may also envision what your perfect freshman year will look like. Understanding your motivations should make asking for help a bit easier.
- Identify what resources you will need to be successful as a freshman. Take a bit of time to write down what you will need to be successful in your freshman year. One example of an important need might be having enough time to accomplish everything that you want to accomplish. In response, you might map out a time budget to understand how much free time you will have available after mandatory practices and workouts, as well as classes. Then you can choose whether you spend time socializing or investing extra time in your athletic or academic performance.
- Practice asking for help. Asking for help can be very intimidating, especially when it comes to one’s athletic performance. A big part of an athlete’s identity is their sport performance. Asking for help may be really uncomfortable. So, if you are not ready to ask for help with respect to your performance, then it might make sense to practice asking for help in less threatening contexts. The sport psychology field might call this “exposure therapy” where you expose yourself to challenging situations in small incremental doses leading up to a very scary task. For example, you might go out of your way to ask a teacher or guidance counselor for help with something related to your college preparation before you ask an athletic coach for help.
Hopefully, this blog post was valuable. Please feel free to reach out to me any time with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can learn more about The Freshman Foundation by downloading my eBook using this link: https://michaelvhuber.com/the-freshman-foundation-e-book/
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