By: Cedric Clemons Jr
For all those athletes out there trying to figure out if you want to keep playing in sports in college or just go to college for the education, I’m here to talk about how I did both, and either way, your decision is right!
I went to Richards High School in Oak Lawn, IL where I was a three sport athlete in basketball, football, and track. I was All-Area and All-Conference in football and basketball, and just average enough in baseball to make the team and have fun with my teammates. My dream was always to go to the NFL or NBA and continue to play until my body couldn’t take it anymore. Unfortunately, this was not the case, and I’m here to tell you all about it.
First year out of high school, I decided to attend a junior college, Moraine Valley, where I played basketball for one year. Our season, as a team, went great even though we fell short in the national championship game. It was a season to remember and an even better experience. Balance is the key transition to playing a collegiate sport. It is not like high school where you can just get by in school because in college, the work is much harder as well as staying on top of practices and games. You are playing with and against the best collegiate athletes in the world who all have one common goal: making it to the professional level.
Unlike high school where you have some players on the team that are just there for exercise or to be involved in school activities, you have those who truly love the game and are putting in extra work to be the best player they can be. This is what makes collegiate sports that much harder and more competitive then high school. During my sophomore year in college, I decided I wanted to attend a university and still participate in sports. I didn’t have any full Division-I scholarships leaving junior college, but I did have some DI partials. I had full DII and DIII scholarships that I did not want to accept because I knew I was DI material in every aspect of the game.
With that being said, I decided to attend Illinois State University and try to become a walk-on when tryouts came around for the basketball team. When tryouts came around, I did not sign up in time so I was not allowed to tryout, even though I had been working on my game with players that were already on the team and competing with those same players all summer long. Sometimes things don’t work out as planned, but you have to figure it out and make the best out of your situation. I was down at first about not being able to tryout, but I got over it relatively quick and just continued work on my game. I told myself that I’ll wait until next year because I’ll still have three years of eligibility left.
As the school year went on, I really started to enjoy college without sports. This was the first time in my life that I was enrolled in school and was not playing any sports at the same time. I was able to 100% focus on my school work and being the best student I could be because I had so much more time to balance it without any sport practices to attend and or team meetings to go to. To be honest, I also learned how to be more social because I was challenged to make friends outside of sports. This turned out great for me because I met so many great people while still having the same sports friends that would have been my teammates. Even though I wasn't on the team, I still had much love for the game so I was around it often.
The next year when it was getting closer to tryouts, I realized that I was just going to enjoy my last two years at Illinois State University without being in a sport and play whenever I could during my free time. I will always love sports, but there was nothing wrong with not being involved in sports after a while. There are plenty of other things and opportunities out there for you to explore! Always remember to have a back-up plan if you’re into sports like I was because not everyone makes it to the professional sports world!