Hard Work and time commitment pay off for college athletes

May 7, 2018 — by Lina Kim and Kaylene Morrison

Alumni reflect on College sports commitments.

2017 alumnus Will Liddle was about to take off down a slope at the Boreal Mountain Resort in Lake Tahoe when his phone rang. Fumbling to remove his gloves, Liddle finally managed to pull his phone out, but the caller had already hung up.

In the midst of the college recruiting process last year, Liddle could sense the call’s importance. He called the number back immediately, finding it was a defensive coordinator and recruiting coach on the line who had seen tapes of him playing at Saratoga High. A few months later, Liddle committed to playing quarterback for the football team at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon.

Every year, as seniors prepare to choose their school for the next four years, a select number of them juggle multiple recruiting offers to play a sport in college.

2017 alumna Emily Chen is another graduate who received such an offer and is playing field hockey at UC Davis.

“I wanted to play field hockey in college to keep competing and improving in a sport I love,” she said. “I had a great experience in high school and wasn’t ready to give up playing field hockey competitively.”

Students like Liddle and Chen choose to continue playing sports college for a multitude of reasons: honing skill, sharing a sense of camaraderie among team members and feeling the excitement that comes with the increase in competitiveness.

I love the team competition at the collegiate level,” he said. “There are eight or nine quarterbacks on my team and so I am battling every single day for the starting job.”

Similarly, in order to keep up with vigorous college field hockey, Chen has had to enhance her skills and open her eyes to many nuances in the sport, which she had previously not noticed at a lower level.

“There’s a good number of skills and tactical details that we can’t spend that much time on in high school,” she said. “And learning it all can be tough, but these things add more to the game to make it more interesting.”

Along with trying to polish their sports skills, college athletes have hours of challenging school work to complete daily.

A typical day for Liddle starts with him attending all his academic classes and completing his assignments prior to football activities. Then from 4 p.m. until 6:30 p.m., Liddle watches recordings of the previous day’s practice along with the team’s other quarterbacks, noting specific important aspects in order to prepare for a film study session with all the offensive players, which takes place at 7 p.m. From 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., the players lift weights in addition to conditioning.

Likewise, Chen also has a busy day, being on the go from 7 a.m. to around 7 p.m. Chen’s schedule fluctuates each day depending on her classes. Generally, she attends classes in the morning, goes to practice for three hours, attends yet more classes and then completes her homework.

On game days, her team gathers for sprints to increase their heart rates a few hours before the game. Then the team will either load onto the bus and head off or warm up on the field an hour prior to game time, depending on whether the game is being held at UC Davis or another school.

In terms of advice for current juniors or seniors planning on doing a sport in college, Chen suggests that they stay organized; she has adopted a strategy in which she writes out her daily schedules hour by hour.

“Be ready to time manage and be efficient with your time. Collegiate sports are a much larger time commitment than high school sports,” Chen said.

Additionally, both Chen’s and Liddle’s description of what is required of them debunks the stereotype that athletes do not need to be as intelligent as non-athletes.

As a quarterback, the mental strain is tremendous because you must be the most intelligent man on the field at all times,” Liddle said. “Everything hinges upon your performance and you must be able to recognize coverages, slides, blitzes, missed routes and pocket presence all within a four second window.”

With their freshman year almost over and additional playing time in their belt, both Chen and Liddle have gained more experience with on-the-field action.  

“I played in every game and started most of the games in the second half of our season, maybe around 8 or 9,” Chen said. “On the field, it was at first pretty intimidating because the pace of the game felt so fast and so many of our opponents were very skillful and physically strong. As the season went on, I got more used to our team’s structure and adapted better to the pace of the game.”

Liddle, as well, was able to participate much in on-the-field action in JV games, as freshman do not yet get to play on the varsity level.

“Football in college is set apart from high school in so many ways. It is faster, the athletes are better, the windows to throw are smaller, but you as an athlete are better as well,” Liddle said. “I played extremely well, averaging a touchdown every series I went in, and I did not throw any interceptions all year.

Despite the difficulty of juggling school work and sports practice and the mental and physical strain of playing a college sport, both athletes said their enthusiasm for their respective sport has not decreased.

“Being able to achieve something I dreamed about when I was younger means a lot to me,” Chen said. “It’s been so fun to continue to be a part of a team and represent my school.”