Tips to help high school athletes transition to non-competitive college life

Augutst 26, 2013  

Rachel Clark

Rachel Clark
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — High school student-athletes adjusting to life at college with no organized team sports may have a tough time eating right and exercising, says a Purdue University expert.

"One of the biggest challenges for these former athletes is the buffet-style eating in residence halls, because when they were competing they were able to eat more freely," says Rachel Clark, sports dietitian for Purdue Athletics and continuing lecturer for the Department of Nutrition Science. "Instead of always having a bunch of activity, they now have a bunch of food in front of them. These former athletes probably spent the past four years playing or training year-round for competitive sports, and once that stops, they will need to be conscientious of their eating and fitness choices."

Very few high school athletes play at the college level, according to the NCAA. According to 2012 statistics, 3.7 percent of women who played high school basketball play in college, and 6.4 percent of men who played high school football go on to the college sport. As a result, there is a significant population of first-year students who are transitioning from a life of structured exercise and coaches or peers encouraging them daily.

"Once these student-athletes step out of this structure, which often coincides with starting college, it can be a significant adjustment to eating the right portions and being motivated to exercise," Clark says. "And, getting back into good habits can be hard to pick back up if overlooked."

Some tips include:

* Keep fitness fun. Look for intramural or club sport teams to join.

* Some students want the break from their high school sports, so find a new sport to learn.

* Pick something that requires a friend to stay motivated. For example, tennis or volleyball.

* Gyms have more than treadmills. Ask for a tour to learn about options.

* When eating the buffet meals at campus housing, pretend to order from a menu. Either walk through or read the online menu to determine an order. "You wouldn't order five entrees at a restaurant," Clark says.

* Regular sleep is just as important as eating well and exercising.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723,

Source: Rachel Clark, 765-496-2711, 

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