An amazing experience that taught me bountiful life lessons both on and off the field.
There are many reasons to be a student-athlete. First, you get priority for getting your classes. That is super important because you will be able to graduate on time and you will also be able to get the classes you need to fit into your schedule. Another reason to be a student-athlete is that you get the privilege to play the sport you love while getting an education paid for (or at least some of it). Lastly, the reason you would want to be a student-athlete is about the connections you make with your teammates, coaches, and other sport athletes and coaches. The bonds you create with these people set you up for life and give you a family while at college.
Some of the challenges of being a student-athlete can range from on the field and off of it. Off the field, it can definitely be hard to balance your education, your sport, and a social life at the same time. You have to remember that you came to school to get an education first and then play your sport. However, take ANY opportunity to make friends with non-athletes. Another hard part about being a student-athlete is just managing grades/classwork while in season. It is super important to keep grades up to be qualified to play, but it is also important to make sure that you are passing to graduate. The biggest thing isn't to stress over classes that you are passing but don't have an A in. At the end of the day, you are receiving a degree with your name on (and no one will care what grade you go in your classes). Lastly, having to fight on the field for playing time or dealing with unfair coaches can be challenge. Personally, I found it difficult because players who were working hard were not rewarded for training hard and playing hard. This is definitely a possibility and as athletes, we have to remember not to let playing time define who we are as a person and teammate on and off the field.
To my coaching staff, the "most talented" players are not always the ones that need to start or play a game. If they are not performing or not working hard, they do not deserve to be on the field. Also, just because you recruited girls sophomore year of high school, that does not mean you owe them playing time. Lastly, do not draw a line between the starters and non-starters. Everyone is equally important on the team, and without each player, there would be no team. Give everyone equal opportunity regardless of talent and treat everyone the same. Make sure those at the "bottom" of the roster are treated just like the "stars"; because maybe on day, your "bottom" players will outperform the "stars".