A friend, whose son is a recent high school graduate, told me the kid seemed depressed when he got home from his commencement ceremony.
"I think it just hit him all at once," my friend said, "that next year, everything will change. He'll be going away to a new school where none of his friends will be - and he won't be rowing, so that will be different, too."
Since the kid had lived and breathed crew for four years straight, I was curious as to why he was quitting.
"Because we want him to focus on studying," was the answer, "and because we don't want him not making the cut, and losing confidence. And this way, he'll have time to make friends."
I couldn't help thinking about how many things were wrong with that statement. I asked her if her son had considered club sports or intramurals.
She seemed confused. "Aren't those just held during breaks or mini-mesters or something?"
It turns out a lot of people aren't quite aware of the year-round options available at colleges for students who don't want to play on a varsity team, or who don't make the cut. Make no mistake: there are quite a lot of options out there. At many schools, particularly large colleges and universities, there's a thriving network of club and recreational sports, held outside the parameters of varsity activities. NIRSA estimates there are 5.5 million students who actively participate in campus recreational programs. These include wellness and fitness programs, intramural sports, sport clubs, aquatic programs and a lot more.
Many colleges hold fall rec fairs or other events so that freshmen, transfer students or even established registrants can learn about the various activities available to them. That aside, the campus recreation office can help point students in the right direction.
For kids new to campus, or those who are looking to make friends or find a place for themselves on the college scene, there's nothing like joining an organization of students with a common interest. A rec program is just that - a rec program. It's student-run, and lacks the rigors and travel schedule of a varsity team, allowing students to decide on their own level of involvement. They can concentrate on their studies, and no athletic scholarships are at stake. Something else great? If students stay active in a sport, there's less chance they'll have problems like the dreaded 'freshman ten' weight gain, and less chance they'll spend all their free time partying.
We should all take some time this summer to encourage recent grads preparing to make the transition to college to check out all the ways they can stay fit and active during this next chapter of their lives. After all, if they maintain a healthy lifestyle in college, it's likely that when they graduate and land a real job, one of their first major investments will be membership in a gym.