College students cope differently to no longer participating in athletics

Of the many adjustments high school students make when transitioning to college, one of the biggest shocks comes with the realization they’re no longer considered athletes, and how they cope with their new-found identities.

By Zac Al-Khateeb
Sports Editor

College students often have many culture shocks when first starting their collegiate careers – being away from home for the first time and increased responsibility, to name a few.

But one of the biggest adjustments college students need to make is how they react to no longer considered athletes. Students, many of whom lettered in numerous sports in high school, have difficulty adjusting to the fact they are no longer on an athletic team.

Will Hoffman, a freshman majoring in history at The University of Alabama, said he missed being a part of an athletic team. Hoffman played varsity soccer for Clay-Chalkville High School in Pinson, Ala., and said he received walk-on opportunities from smaller schools to play soccer.

Hoffman said he appreciated the attention, but eventually decided it would be best to focus on his education rather than try to play collegiate soccer.

“I made the decision to go to a big university to try to further my education, and not pursue college sports,” Hoffman said. “Because I didn’t think it was going to take me where I wanted to go.”

Still, Hoffman said considers himself an athlete. Although he doesn’t train himself like he used to, Hoffman said he still runs 5-and-10K marathons to keep in shape, and even joined an intramural soccer team during his first semester.

Hoffman said he doesn’t regret his decision, but still wonders about what would happen if he’d pursued a collegiate athletic career.

“I do think about it,” Hoffman said. “There is that fleeting thought of what could have been. But I wouldn’t say I regret it.”

Sophomore Jamekia Dawson also said she needed some time to adjust to her new role outside of athletics. Dawson, a geology major, played on Pelham High School’s girls basketball team in Pelham, Ala.

Dawson didn’t receive any offers out of high school, but entertained the idea of walking on to the women’s basketball team as a freshman. But, much like Hoffman, she decided she needed to focus on her education.

Still, Dawson missed athletic competition, and coped with no longer playing on an official team by playing intramural football, basketball and softball her freshman year.

“I’d never won a championship before, and I’ve always wanted to know what it felt like,” Dawson said. “We actually were intramural champions. So I’m actually kind of happy that I did play intramurals instead of playing college basketball.”

Not all athletes from high school forego athletics once outside of high school, however. One such student, 26-year old JaMalcolm Payne, is still set on walking on to the Alabama football team.

A former football standout at Shades Valley High School in Birmingham, Ala., Payne said he had numerous scholarship opportunities out of high school, including Troy, UAB and Duke, but decided to forego all of these opportunities so that he might be able to play for the Crimson Tide.

“Everybody was like, “What are you doing, man? You’re making a very stupid decision,’” Payne said. “But I was like, ‘That may be true, but why not come to the university where my chances of going to the NFL are much higher?’”

Payne enrolled at Alabama in 2009, but has encountered numerous problems with walking on, including eligibility and academic issues, as well as miscommunication with the athletic department.

Payne, a sophomore majoring in business according to the number of hours he’s taken, has continuously trained himself for the day he can walk on at Alabama. Payne said he fully understands what’s needed of him to do so, but won’t be able to walk on until 2014.

Despite all the difficulties he’s faced, Payne said he’s still confident of his chances of making the team and as anxious as ever to get back on the football field.

“Some people say that, “That’s not a part of you,” Payne said. “You don’t understand, if you’ve been doing that all your life, that becomes a part of who you are, and when you can’t do that, it’s very very frustrating.”