Stay in the Game

Ways to continue athletic participation in college

While your student may be the star of their high school sports scene, in college, it could be a different story. The fastest, strongest, and fiercest competitors from high schools around the nation will be trying out for a coveted few positions, and not everyone can make the team. Even without being the next pro pick, there are myriad ways that your student can stay in the game.

Varsity Teams

From archery to ice hockey to sailing, colleges offer a wide array of sports far beyond the typical basketball-baseball-soccer high school trio. No matter what sports your student tries out for, expect rigorous practice schedules and little to no weekends off during play season. Members of the varsity teams are expected to train hard together, uphold a reasonable standard of conduct and academic performance, and travel during the season to other colleges and universities to compete. Unlike high school “after school” practices, some varsity sports teams practice up to six or even seven times per week, sometimes twice per day, in order to stay at their physical best. Athletic scholarships, work-study programs, and generous financial aid packages can help ease the economic pressure of higher education, but balancing class and practice can still be tricky. If your student chooses to try out, check into how much of a time commitment the team requires.

Intramural Teams

A great place to meet people, intramural teams are the laid-back counterpart to varsity sports. Designed for fun, intramural teams provide an opportunity for students, and sometimes faculty and staff, to get their kicks through sports such as soccer, dodge ball, aikido, inner tube water polo, and paintball. With no try-outs, no coaches, and considerably less time commitment, intramural teams are about playing much more so than winning. Intramural teams play against each other and do not involve a rigorous practice or travel schedule. Rules of participation and team formation vary from school to school.

Club Teams

Somewhere in the middle of varsity and intramural levels are club teams. Athletic-minded freshmen typically begin at the club level, and then work their way up to varsity. Club players are subject to less rigorous social and academic expectations, but are not eligible for athletic scholarships or work-study placement. Club teams typically require tryouts and have a competitive edge but do require the same practice or travel time as that of varsity teams. Teams can be either student- or coach-run, and travel is restricted to a local or state level. The rules and restrictions of club players vary tremendously from school to school, so do your research by contacting your students’ college athletics department.


This article was written by Christina Couch

Christina Couch is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Virginia, and Chicago, Illinois. She is the author of Virginia Colleges 101: The Ultimate Guide for Students of All Ages (Palari Publishing, 2008). Her byline can also be found on,, and, and in Wired Magazine.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.