Parents, coaches, and athletes all share a common goal; the goal of helping you standout, gain attention, and solidify a spot on a collegiate roster. We all want to “earn” an opportunity, but we don’t want to “pay” the price to get there. Being a great athlete is no longer enough. Practicing extra is no longer enough. Ability and time are two constants every athlete has access to. You must invest in the 10% extra that 90% of athletes do not have.

$1,000 winter jackets, $200 boots, $100 bracelets, and $5 coffee’s might help you fit in, but they certainly don’t help you stand out – at least not to your prospective college coach. What are you really investing in?

According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2015–2016 school year was just over $34,000 at private colleges, $9,500 for state residents at public colleges, and $25,000 for out-of-state residents attending public universities. The average IVY League education will cost your family nearly $250,000 for a four-year education.

The rising popularity of men’s and women’s lacrosse and the influx of collegiate programs has diluted the scholarship opportunities nationwide. Unlike major NCAA sports like football, hockey, basketball, and baseball, secondary sports yield lesser funds available for larger pools of participants. NCAA Division I men’s Lacrosse teams have an average roster size of 45 players but only a maximum of 12.6 scholarships to award per team. This means that the average award covers less than 30% of a typical athlete’s annual college costs.

It should be increasingly obvious to you that your dollar will not go as far tomorrow as it’s going today. Parents and young athletes alike need to face a stark reality that playing college athletics might not be possible if there is a setback. Are you investing in the right things?

Concussions, sprains, strains, and fractures lead the nation in athletic injuries suffered by athletes 10 – 19 years old. Football, hockey, and soccer lead the nation in concussions. The average costs of injuries range from $2000+ for a fracture, to $6000+ for a dislocation, an upwards of $18,000 for an ACL reconstruction. Add in the injury rehabilitation, repeat years of schooling, and potential loss of an athletic scholarship and a BOLD bottom line is formed – injuries are expensive. Can you afford a significant injury you could have prevented?

As Spring sports are primed to commence, lets lay out on paper, the best investments you can make for yourself now, and for the betterment of your future.

  1. Invest time with your family. Life can be amazing, but it can also be horrific. Spend time with siblings, parents, aunts, and uncles to create relationships that will accompany you through your success and be sustainable through your adversities.
  1. Invest in your school work. Believe it or not, you’re probably not as talented athletically as you think you are. School might not feel like a fallback option now, but there is greater than a 99.9% chance it will be when your senior year in college is over.
  1. Invest in your off-field well-being. Stress, lack of sleep, fatigue, hunger, dehydration, and social decisions are all dominant factors in the integrity of your general health. Drink a gallon of water a day and you won’t have time to worry about someone else’s drama. Sleep seven hours a night and you’ll be rested and alert with enough time allotted to eat your breakfast, retain what you learn, and improve your athletic performance.
  1. Invest in your on-field injury prevention. Buy the best cleats for your foot mechanics, your playing surface, and your sport, not the best-looking cleats in the store. Allow extra time in your day to visit the athletic trainer, assistant coaches, and teammates to address concerns at hand. And, if you feel or see something, say something. Toughness is not defined by the non-disclosure of pain. Toughness is defined by the total disregard for what has been disclosed.
  1. Invest in your physical fitness, performance, and future. Gym memberships range from $10 a month to $1200 a month. Find the one that is most appropriate for your needs, goals, and wallet. The athlete who spends more money on performance training doesn’t necessarily receive the best programming or yield the greatest results. On the contrary, he/she who invests the most of themselves in the performance training they have selected, do in fact benefit from the greatest results.

Your future is dependent on individuality and accountability. My aunt once gave me a sewn image of a small ship in the middle of a raging, open ocean. The quote read, “Dear God, please protect me. My boat is so small, and the sea is so wide.” The card that accompanied the picture said, “it’s your ship and I trust you will sail it wisely.”

Stop trying to fit in and start trying to stand out.