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Breaking into College Sports

Are you thinking about playing for a sports team in college? Whether you want to play for a competitive team or have some fun in an intramural sport, getting involved in college athletics is a great way to stay fit, meet people and learn the many great lessons sports can teach you.

Division I and II Athletics

If you’re talented, motivated—and lucky enough to be one of the 400,000-plus student-athletes chosen annually by the NCAA from 15 million college students—you already know that playing Division I and II sports takes commitment, perseverance and hard work.

You also know that intercollegiate athletics aren’t just about winning games and cheering crowds. They’re also about leadership on the field and off—and that means leading by example academically, socially, ethically and competitively.

Although many schools actively recruit student-athletes while they are still in high school, all schools also hold tryouts, and some sports have more open spots than others.

Think you’ve got the right stuff to try out for intercollegiate athletics? You’ll have a better chance of making the team if you:

  • Be proactive. Find out where tryout dates and times are posted, and check back often with the athletic department for updated information. Attend any preliminary team or tryout meetings.
  • Pay attention to detail. Make sure your paperwork is in order. You don’t want to be disqualified because you forgot a routine physical. Make sure you have and complete all the required forms and have the specific medical clearance or records you need.
  • Get to know the coach before tryouts. Introduce yourself by e-mail, attend practice to show your support or go by his or her office to talk about how great the team is and your interest in it. A coach who knows and likes you would probably pick you over a stranger—and sometimes decisions can be that close.
  • Get to know the team. Teamwork counts in sports. What better recommendation can you have than teammates already pulling for you to join them?
  • Be prepared. Practice every day, keep your grades up and consider doing something that demonstrates your capacity for leadership, like volunteering for a special event on campus or in the community.

Intramural Athletics

You don’t have to be a star athlete to play sports in college. Whether you’re looking for recreation or played competitively before, intramural athletics offer something for everyone—basketball, flag football, kickball, dodgeball, soccer, tennis, volleyball and more.

Intramurals are a great way to unwind after class, meet new people and stay in shape. But intramurals are more than just fun and games—intramural athletes often take their sport seriously, and the competition can be pretty intense, especially when it’s for a regional or national championship title.

Are You Ready to Play?

Joining an intramural team is fairly easy. Just stop by the student center and find out which department is in charge of intramural sports, or check the sports section of the college website for more information about the intramural program.

First decide which sport you want to play and whether you want to join an existing team or start your own. Joining an existing team is easy, but if you know a lot of people you’d like to play with, starting a team might be the way to go. From there, you’ll want to:

  • Register. To play intramurals, typically you need to sign an injury waiver and fill out some paperwork. You may also have to pay a fee to play a particular sport. Fees can vary, so check before you sign up.
  • Contact your team captain or teammates. If you join an existing team, contact the team captain for the practice schedule. If you start your own team, you’ll be in charge of organizing practice, so make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Show up for practice. Many people play intramurals for fun, but that doesn’t mean you should blow off practice. Regular practice is the only way to get your game together, and it’s also an excellent way to get to know your teammates.

It’s All in the Game

No matter your sport, whether you play in an NCAA division or an intramural league, remember that good athletes always give it their best, honor the rules and their teammates and conduct themselves with sportsmanship. Sure, you want to win, but being part of any sports team is also about dedication, enthusiasm, teamwork and heart. Good athletes also combine winning on the field with good academics, which is practice for winning at life!

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