Off to college, adulthood and college sports — part 1

'Having your own bedtime' part of adjustment for former high-school athletes

Steve Smith
Posted 6/14/22

It’s a rite of passage. High-school students swap the comforts of home, home-cooked meals and laundry services in exchange for the first taste of responsibility, finding their own meals and ways to …

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Off to college, adulthood and college sports — part 1

'Having your own bedtime' part of adjustment for former high-school athletes


It’s a rite of passage.

High-school students swap the comforts of home, home-cooked meals and laundry services in exchange for the first taste of responsibility, finding their own meals and ways to keep their clothes clean.

Welcome to college.

While it’s quite the switch for the majority of college freshmen, those who choose to be athletes have to budget in practice time, film sessions, game days/nights and travel into their new-found routines.

We talked with almost a dozen former high-school athletes about their first year in college. In the first of a three-part series, they discuss the basic adjustment to college and how well they handled it.

Adjustment highlights

Vershon Brooks played football at Brighton High School. He’s doing the same at Luther College in somewhere.

“The adjustment from high-school to college sports was definitely noticeable right away,” he said. “The small details in every little think you do matter. Little details in how you train, how you practice all adds up, and it will show on the field. Honestly, there was nothing really tougher. Only thing I can say that got tougher was just the speed of the game.”

Chase Prestwich, who played baseball at both Brighton and Frederick high schools, said there was lots of adjusting.

“Everyone is stronger, faster and bigger in college sports. It is something you have to get used to,” said the Northwestern State freshman. “Baseball in college requires a lot more time. The days are longer - practices, team meetings, going for treatments, looking at videos, etc. I’d say adjusting to the strength of everyone has been the hardest part.”

Former Frederick basketball player Izayah Elize agreed with the strength piece.

“Only 7% of athletes play at the next level, so obviously you have to be elite to play,” he said.

His former classmate, Ryan Chacon, winner of two state track-and-field titles as a senior last spring, said there was lots to factor into his adjustments. He’s running cross country at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas.

“For me, a key one was time management,” Chacon said. “It’s a big key in college and determines your character to the coach.”

Adams City alum and multi-sport athlete Gerardo Caldera chose Waldorf College and its football team.

“When I first got here, things ran faster than what they did in high school,” he said. “Everything here is at a faster pace, and you either keep up with it or you get left behind.”

Former Stargate School student and Legacy High School swimmer Emma Kulbida took her talent to Carnegie Mellen, an NCAA Division III school in Pittsburgh.

“The good thing about choosing to compete at a D3 level was the lower commitment to athletics. However, even at a D3 level the commitment level is very high,” she said. “We practice eight times a week, including lifts. So the practice time commitment is similar to what it was in high school.”

The actual meets (each weekend, she said) take up “lots of time.”

“The difficulty of training depends on how much effort you are willing to put into practices, so that stayed the same for me going from high school to college,” she said. “However, the time commitment increased, and it has been really difficult to figure out how to balance school and swimming.”

Her former classmate at Stargate, Madison Roecker, is on the cheer team at Nebraska-Wesleyan.

“The adjustment from high school to college sports was slightly difficult at first,” she said. “I had to learn how to manage my time better to account for longer practices alongside a more rigorous academic schedule.”

Another Stargate alum, Erica Derby, played soccer for Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska. She said she didn’t have to make much of an adjustment.

“For the soccer side, everything stayed almost the same. Except we practice in the morning before school, not after school like in high school,” she said. “There was a bit of an adjustment for my classes, though. In high school I was used to having every class every day and homework for that class every night.”

That changed this year.

“I have classes two or three times a week, which makes the homework due in two days, not one,” Derby said. “It took me about a week or so to get used to that. Other than that, everything was a smooth transition for me. I have a lot more free time that I did in high school. But soccer fills some of that, and the rest I use to study.”

Former Riverdale Ridge baseball player Dakota Pruitt had a built-in advantage for his first year at Otero Junior College.

“The switch from high-school to college athletics was pretty easy,” he said. “I had a lot of help from older friends and my brothers. They gave me advice and ways to make it through. So without them, I would be a lost puppy.”

Brighton High School alum Eli Bowman played football at the South Dakota School of Mines.

“At first, the adjustment from high school to college football is pretty big,” he said. “I was definitely humbled being surrounded by guys that are bigger, faster and stronger. The overall mindset was a big change too. In high school, not everyone was as committed as me. But in college, everyone has the same winning mindset, so the coaches and the players all expect a lot more from you.”

Former Brighton swimmer Jespyn Bishop chose to play water polo at McKendree University in Lebanon, Illinois. He called his adjustment “definitely weird,” in part because water polo is not a sanctioned sport in Colorado.

“ I just had my club team on its own, unlike some of my teammates and other athletes who had both,” he said. “The change though was definitely a little overwhelming at first. The level of play I came into was much higher than what I was used to.”

His team had more weekly training and weight sessions.

“It definitely took me a few weeks to get in gear, but eventually with repetition and motivation from my teammates I got the hang of it all,” Bishop said. “I would have to say the most difficult part about it was that as soon as I arrived, we pretty much had to jump into season. We had our preseason/tryouts for the D2 roster in the first two weeks. I ended up being one of four freshmen to make the varsity roster, which was pretty exciting.”

Graded adjustments

Derby said the switch for her was easy.

“I do miss my family but I enjoy the independence I have in college,” she said. “I made good friends on the soccer team.”

“Personally, I think I have handled the switch well,” Pruitt said. “It’s just getting used to having your own bedtime.”

Bowman thought he handled the switch well, too.

“At first, it was a lot of work, but I was able to play in every game as a freshman, so that gave me some confidence and incentive to keep going,” he said.

Brooks said his switch was “a little rough.”

“Leaving loved ones and friends has been the hardest part,” Brooks said. “My family is my biggest motivation in everything I do, so not seeing them on a daily basis was a big change.”

Roecker said she was able to acclimate to her new surroundings “quickly.”

“There’s definitely a learning curve” Kulbida said. “The first couple months were definitely a struggle. Although it is far from easy now, I realized that time management and keeping a rigid schedule but still setting time aside to relax and take breaks has been extremely important. Also, I’ve learned the importance of prioritizing sleep and recovery.”

“The way I’ve handled the switch is I’ve stayed up some nights finishing homework and assignments just to stay on top of my academics, because I know my ability to work well on the field but I’m also a student before an athlete,” Caldera said.

Chacon joined those who have handled the switch well.

“My teammates and coach pushed me so I can be the best I can be,” he said.

For his part, Bishop said it took some time to get used to the changes.

“I was in a totally new living situation as well,” he said. “I think it took a good portion of first semester to get comfortable. I still am not fully comfortable, and I don’t think I ever will because being 12 hours from the place where I grew us is definitely weird. I am though starting to get use to the area here, which is good.”

“You’ve got to have confidence and hold your ground,” Elize said. “It’s not always easy. But you have to have confidence.”

“I have handled the switch fine,” Prestwich said. “I try to stay on a sleep schedule and overall routine, because I know my days will be long.”


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