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How to Be A Successful College Player

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Sean Duffy, Head Coach, University of Arizona

Guest Post by Sean Duffy, Head Coach, University of Arizona  University of Arizona Head Coach Sean Duffy shares key off-field tips for future college players. Seniors especially should take note before heading off to college this fall.

Time Management

You’ll have way more time than you are used to having and will have the urge to procrastinate. USA Rugby requires all student-athletes to be in good standing with their university to be eligible to compete, which for most universities on a 4.0 scale is a 2.0 GPA. Some teams go a step further and do grade checks or require higher GPAs.  Texting your coach asking to miss practice because “I have to write a paper” translates to “I was assigned a paper, and I’m waiting until now to do it, so my lack of time management will affect the Rugby program.” Many rugby programs require daily commitments to rugby, such as practices, strength & conditioning, team meetings, etc. However, many teams also have lots of travel in their regular season. Having to get on a plane Friday night and not returning to campus until late Sunday night will certainly affect your ability to write that term paper due on Monday. -Check out this BlogPost from MIT that explains how to use breaks effectively. (High School students: If you haven’t already gotten used to using some planner (whether it’s one you write in or on your phone), now is the time to build this critical habit. Here are some great College Daily Planners to choose from).

Study Location

Don’t make the library your only study location; maybe it’s fine during the year but around exam time or mid-term time. Packed. Good luck getting that table in the corner on the 3rd floor that you always go to. Have 2-3 go-to locations where you know you can study. Study lounges in dorms on some campuses are hardly used and are usually fantastic. The student union/dining hall/cafeteria on most campuses empty out around exam time, too, because everyone’s in the library. Secondly, never study in your dorm room. Keep that a place to hang out, relax, sleep, and play PS4. Your roommate or roommates have different schedules than you, most likely as well. (High School students: think about where you do your homework now and whether that location is conducive to studying. Find a place that allows you to focus and not get distracted by TV, a computer, or even other people. Many students might find the best place to study is in their school library after school or at a local coffee shop. What is important is finding what works FOR YOU).

Get To Know Your Professors

Introduce yourself to your professors on Day 1 – A little secret for you. To college professors, on day one, you are not a special snowflake, you are student ID #. Beat this on the first day by introducing yourself to your professor. It’s a lot harder for a professor to drop the hammer on you when you have a face, and you’re not just a number. All professors also host Office Hours each week. Take some time to learn more about your professors or get clarification on that week’s material. If you feel yourself struggling, ask for help. Here are more tips on how to Effectively Use Office Hours.  (High School students: you can begin this habit by making sure you also get to know as many of your teachers too! Ask him or her where s/he went to college, why s/he went there, and what advice s/he would give you about the college planning process.)

Go to Class!

Take your family’s tuition bill for the year, and divide it in half so you have the semester costs. Now divide that semester cost by the number of courses you have. Take that number and divide it by the number of class days. When you skip, you’re wasting that money. Show up. The first semester can be difficult because class schedules tend to be more prescriptive for first-year students. And yes, I know 8:00 AM classes are tough to make sometimes. But, if you’re like most college students, in the remaining semesters you’re in college, you’ll get to make your schedule. So, suck it up for the first three to four months of freshmen year, and then your 8 AMs are likely gone forever. Don’t forget if you’re missing class, more than likely, your grades will suffer, and sooner than later, your roster spot may be long gone. Don’t risk it! (High School students: Register for your classes as soon as you are able. If possible, schedule classes around times when you know you are most productive. e.g. late owls, try to schedule evening classes).

Health Insurance

Get your insurance sorted out before play starts so that if (and likely when) you have an injury, you are ok. If you’re attending a college out-of-state, sometimes it’s better to purchase the university’s insurance plan, which will open up more doors for you care-wise if you get hurt. Traveling to the neighboring city because your family’s insurance plan isn’t accepted in the city of your college is a hassle. This can also be easily figured out during your Summer Freshman Orientation. (High School students: If you are on your family’s plan, look up in-network doctors, know your deductible, etc., before you leave for school! Know your primary care doctor’s contact info, dentist’s info, etc.)

Buy In If there’s an optional pre-season camp, go. If there’s an opportunity to move in early, do it. If there’s an off-field thing where your coach needs help, do it. Service project, do it. Get to practice early, volunteer to help with field set up, and stay late to help break down. Showing buy-in to the program is the #1 way to earn the respect of your new teammates. Don’t be the kid that talks about your high school rugby success all the time and wears your high school rugby gear to every session. Your new teammates don’t care. Work hard, buy in, and you’ll have a full team of new brothers or sisters before you know it.

Manage Crisis

Transferring is an option if things get bad, but quite often, students that do regret it. Those thoughts often come from homesickness, frustration with rugby, academic troubles, or minor things that will sometimes feel huge, like your roommate situation, weather, etc. Just remember – every single person in college has gone through something similar at least once. Establish allies in the university, such as a teammate, particularly one who’s an upperclassman. Those thoughts often come from homesickness, frustration with rugby, academic troubles, or minor things that will sometimes. I can guarantee someone in the program has gone through what you’re going through. Take a breath. Don’t make rash decisions. After a year, still not a fit? You tried. Explore options. After two weeks? Relax. Take a breath. Your family has likely paid for the semester already, anyway. All college campuses also have Mental Health & Counseling Centers. 35% of college freshmen report having experienced anxiety and depression. It is ok to ask for help. If you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious, stop in to speak with a professional to help you through this tough time. Here are some great tips from the University of Michigan to help yourself maintain your mental health.


Once you know where you are attending, communicate this to everyone who helped you along the way – ESPECIALLY any college coaches you had been talking to before your decision. Please don’t leave them hanging! A quick phone call, email, or text will do. Just let them know you appreciate their time and let them know where you are headed.

Lastly, we know college life is exciting, but don’t forget to stay in touch with your family. Send your parents the game schedule. Call/video chat with them once weekly, once every few days, to start the first year.

Rugby Tip of the Month brought to you by US Collegiate Development Camp


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