The ball is in your court

Committing to and playing a Division 1 sport can be an exciting time for students.

Nick+Smith+steps+up+to+the+plate+at+his+SDU+college+baseball+game.

Steve Smith

Nick Smith steps up to the plate at his SDU college baseball game.

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It’s that time of the year again that many seniors and even juniors have committed to colleges to play sports. Senior Hayley Haakenstad said she has been waiting for this moment since she was seven years old.

“I started playing [tennis] when I was seven because my parents signed my brother up to play, he’s six years older, so I got dragged to the practices and I was bored so I asked them to sign me up too,” Haakenstad said, who’s now committed to the University of Nebraska for tennis.

Division 1 schools usually have the largest student bodies, largest athletic budgets, and the most generous number of scholarships. However, the recruitment process can be long and grueling but worth it in the end.

“It was pretty interesting, it lasted about 11 months. I narrowed the list to five schools that I took visits to. It was a difficult process because I had to send out emails and call people and it was pretty hard getting the courage to do that but in the end I was able to develop some skills that helped me a lot,” Haakenstad said.

Today, Division 1 schools have 350 colleges and universities, more than 6,000 athletic teams, and more than 170,000 student-athletes that compete each year. Nick Smith said he gets to experience this everyday. Smith is a freshman at South Dakota State University and plays D1 baseball for his school.

“My first college game was at Mississippi State. It was a little different because the most fans I’ve played in front of was 4,000 and at Mississippi State there was 9,000,” Smith said.

Many young and hopeful student-athletes hope to have this same experience as Smith has had. Sophomore Claire Shea said she hopes to have the opportunity to play soccer in college.

“It’s something I love to do and it will be a great experience to be apart of a college team. And it’s a great place to meet new people,” Shea said.

Many people who have played sports said it has completely changed their lives. Sports can make athletes feel part of a team because of how hard they work together to achieve a goal.

“In college I’m really excited because Nebraska is in the Big 10 so the matches are going to be really intense and that’s what I love about the game,” Haakenstad said. “I love to compete so I’m excited for that.”