SportStars Magazine

College Advice: Who Knows Best?

   A lot people are giving me advice about where to go to college. I’d like to play soccer, but I don’t really know how good I am. Some people say I can play Division I, and one of my coaches said I might have a better college experience if I go Division III. But the schools I really want to go to are so good in soccer I probably couldn’t play there. So I’m really confused, and people keep talking to me and confusing me even more. Who should I listen to? -G.G., Berkeley

   It’s sort of ironic you’re asking me for advice on which advice to take, but that’s really the crux of the issue, for you and almost everyone heading off to college: You want to make the best decision possible so you talk to as many people as possible, but after a while, it’s easy to fall into the paralysis-from-analysis trap — but then again, maybe the next person you talk to will give you the key to unlocking the best decision.

   At some point, though, you have to draw a line in the sand and say to yourself “OK, I have to move from information-gathering to decision-making.”

   That’s step one. Step two is to evaluate who’s giving you advice and why. Generally, your parents have certain goals for you, and obviously you should listen to them. But, as you assuredly have pointed out to them in the past, you are not them, and their goals aren’t necessarily yours.

   Your club soccer coach makes his living from soccer, and the more players he sends on to Pac-12 schools, the better his club looks — and the more likely he is to make more money. So his assurance that you’ll do fine at UCLA is great, and may even be accurate, but there is an advantage for him even if you go to UCLA and quit playing after one year. He can still say he sent a player to the Pac-12.

   Your soccer friends and their families are all wrapped up in the same complications, but there’s also an added level of competition. One girl and her dad are bragging about how she got a ride to Texas Tech, and a boy claims he got into a really good academic school because of the soccer coach.

    All of this leads to the moment when you want to decide where to go to school, and at that moment, you are taking another step, a big one, towards adulthood. In the end, the only advice that matters is your own, and you have to filter out, as best you can, all those other voices.

   How important is soccer? How important will soccer be two years from now? Four years from now? Twenty years from now? Will you look back if you wind up not playing in college and always wonder “What if …,” or will you feel that your time was better spent on preparing for a business career? Or is the fact that you can only play soccer at this level for a few more years and you’ll be working the rest of your life more important?

   One of the reasons we enjoy sports is that there’s always a clear outcome (even a tie), but life is much more ambiguous. You can never really know what the best decision is or was, so you just have to do the best you can at the moment you decide, and then move on.

   Of course, that’s just my advice, and maybe my voice is one you should filter out.

   Or not. Good luck.

   Clay Kallam is an assistant athletic director and girls varsity basketball coach at Bentley High in Lafayette. To submit a question for Behind the Clipboard, email him at clayk@fullcourt.com

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