Not Playing D1 Doesn’t Make You Any Less of an Athlete

College soccer. These can either be two of the most daunting or most exciting words for a  high school soccer player. There are those high school athletes who have their mind set on playing D1 soccer, and absolutely nothing that can deter them from doing so. To those determined individuals I say, GodSpeed, my tenacious friend. To the rest of the you who want to play college soccer, but do not identify with the previous description, I say, READ ON because I want to speak directly and openly to YOU, and maybe, just maybe, when we’re done here, you’ll be left feeling more confident and excited about the prospect of playing college ball, at any division.   

The mere connotation of college soccer can leave some younger athletes feeling nervous, anxious, and confused, and why shouldn’t it? Between selecting a major, school location, and individual class size, you’re now being forced to choose the division best suited for you. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve definitely heard all about the glitz and glam of D1 ball from either friends, coaches, or social media. But I’m here to tell you, it’s okay to begin questioning everything your soccer-culture upbringing has taught you. Because, truthfully my friends, D1 isn’t for everyone, and it might not be for you. 

Take this moment, right now, to ask yourself what it is you want out of your college experience? What are your goals? What, at the end of it all, will make you the best and happiest version of yourself? Doing this autoanalysis can be scary, especially since we might not have all the answers.

So my advice would be to go with your gut. If you know yourself to be someone who enjoys playing the game, but hates sacrificing social events or academics, then D1 may not be for you. Why? Because D1 soccer is a constant grind. Six A.M. wake up calls for practice, double days, no free weekends, missed classes, strenuous gym schedules, endless field workouts, the list goes on and on. If this sounds like your cup of tea, then hey, enjoy! But if not, that’s okay, it doesn’t make you any less of a baller. It just means you value other aspects of your life just as much as soccer. And you know what? Good for you, that too should be honored and respected. 

What happens if you don’t mind the workload of a D1 program, but you’re also very interested in a school of another division? Again, go with your gut. No one knows you better than you, so trust yourself. Which school and team culture/philosophy speaks more to you? If playing time is most important to you, maybe that sways you in the non-D1 direction. If academics is your main priority, then choose the school with your desired major, or smaller class sizes where the teachers are more readily available. It’s okay to prioritize non-soccer/post-college ambitions. And it’s okay to use soccer as a stepping stone to achieve your future goals. Just be sure to choose a school that can best accommodate your preferences.   

Now, just for a second, lets step away from the external factors affecting your decision making. Let’s focus more on the internal factors. Let’s focus on you. You have come so far and worked so hard to get to this point. I don’t need to know you personally in order to know that you are special. Not just anyone can aspire to play college soccer, and not just anyone can put in the time, energy, and effort as you have in order to be successful. This quality about you, your uniqueness, on and off the field, is precious. So my advice is, find a school, a team, and most importantly, a coach that can see that uniqueness and believes in it. Seek this environment, where you will be appreciated and valued, no matter the division, and you will flourish.        

If you’re still feeling puzzled about your options, remember, your original decisions don’t have to define you. You can decide to go D1 and then realize, you just aren’t suited for that lifestyle. Life is a series of trials and errors. Don’t let the glitz and glam of Division 1 lead you away from schools in other divisions that will fit you better athletically, socially, and academically. Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path. The “D1 prestige” is merely a social construct that disappears with time, but your overall college experience stays with you a lifetime. So why not do yourself a favor? Make sure it’s an experience that helps mold you into the best and happiest version of yourself. I promise you won’t regret it.  

Feature photo via Instagram @wvuwomenssoccer



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