One of the most amazing aspects of playing lacrosse is all the opportunities that it can bring you. Throughout my 23 years as a player, I was able to meet many amazing people, travel all over the world, get jobs working for lacrosse companies and most importantly, get a great education. I tell youth players all the time, I'm no rocket scientist myself, so I would have never been able to get into Princeton University if I had not been getting recruited there for lacrosse. But, on the other side, I also would have never been able to go to Princeton, had I not done a great job in the class room in high school, as well.
Many of the Division I, II, III and MCLA schools that play lacrosse are amazing universities to go to and get a great education. So, lacrosse can be a ticket in to those places if a player has a coach's support. However, every coach has different academic requirements to deal with at their admissions office, so it is extremely important for a high school player to try to do his best in school from his freshman year on.
Here is the hypothetical situation that I like to share with young high school players and their parents. Let's say you become a pretty good lacrosse player and your dream is to play DI. It is extremely competitive to get recruited for DI, so maybe only a few coaches come after you. Then, let's say that one of those coaches comes to you from a great school that has everything you want in a college. That coach then asks you how you have been doing in school and on standardized tests, and you say something along the lines to him like, "Not great, but I know I can do better. I haven't really been trying that hard and I can get my scores and grades up."
The problem is that if you are not already a great student by the time you get recruited, then many coaches may have to cross you off their list. Then, an opportunity that you would have had in the recruiting process may pass you by...and you won't even know it! Also, coaches want to recruit great students as they know those are the athletes that they will not have to babysit in college. They know that the recruits that are mature enough to work hard in the class room, will also work hard on the field, in the weight room and will be good teammates and citizens off the field, as well. Those are the type of young people that coaches love to work with!
So, just like everything else we have talked about on this blog site so far, do your best to be a great student. Here are some of the things that have helped me in my experience or that I have seen with other people :
1. Use your time wisely. The best way to do this is to not procrastinate when you get assignments. Instead of getting home after school and practice and plopping down to play video games, get to your school work. Then, any extra time you have later can be at your leisure. Just as you have to develop discipline to work hard and become a great lacrosse player, you have to do the same with your schoolwork. Studying is like practice, the only way you are going to become a better student is by studying hard.
2. Get extra help with any subject that you struggle with. Not all of us are born with the ability to learn all subject matters at the same pace. But, that is not a good enough reason to just do poorly on a given subject and just use the excuse, "Well, I'm not very good at math." If you know you have trouble with a subject, let your teachers and parents know so you can try and get some help with it, either from a tutor or teacher or parent.
3. Sit in the front of the classroom and introduce yourself to your teacher after your first class. The number one complaint that I hear all the time from teachers, is that their students do not care about school. Let them know on the first day of school, that you do care, that you are there to learn and that you want to do a great job in their class.
4. Start to think about what you are interested in studying. This is my number one regret as a student. I was so focused on being a great athlete and great student that I never allowed myself to wonder what I really like studying and what I was really interested in. This is also the reason I think post-graduate years in high school are a great opportunity for students to grow more and find out what they want to pursue before college. Ask yourself questions like, "what type of magazines do I like to read?", "what jobs do I think are cool?", "how do I enjoy spending my time away from sports and school?", "what places would I like to visit?", "what do I find interesting in the world?". When you realize some of your passions in the world, then the class room can become more meaningful as you start to concentrate more on the subject matters that can help you pursue those dreams.
5. Get some sleep! High school athletes have to be some of the most tired people I have ever seen in my life. That's not surprising either! This is probably one of the most demanding and intense times in your life. Now, with cell phones and internet at your fingertips, it's harder than ever to get some rest. As a high school athlete, you NEED at least eight hours of sleep per night. Sleep has been shown to be just as important for athlete's training regimens as anything else. When your muscles break down, they need rest to recover. So, if you want to get bigger, stronger and faster and become a better player, get some rest. Turn off that cell phone, iPad and computer every night. Your girlfriend will survive if you don't respond to her 52 text messages and Facebook will still be there in the morning.
6. Read for enjoyment. The saddest thing that I hear young athletes say to me about school, is that they hate reading. My theory is that they simply have never picked up a book that they really wanted to read. So, try going to a book store and finding something that you really find interesting and want to read. You may be amazed by how into the book you get and what you can learn about yourself and your world through reading someone else's experience. Plus, it will help you on standardized tests and your ability to concentrate in school.
Obviously, I'm sure there are lots more suggestions for students to become great in the class room and I would suggest seeking some of those tips out. These are just some things that come to me right away off the top of my head with my own experience as an athlete and through dealing with younger athletes now. (If anyone has any other ideas or resources to suggest, please comment below.)
Look, don't get me wrong. I know high school is hard and can completely suck sometimes. We all know that. But, you might as well make and get the most out of it that you can while you are there. Furthermore, if you want to play college lacrosse, you can help yourself a great deal by being an awesome student. Lacrosse can be a ticket to gain admission into college or even for a scholarship once in a while, but you better do your job in the class room first.