Playing at Next Level Requires Tough Minds, Not Just Bodies

Published by The Virginian-Pilot 

By Ashley Jones

Teen correspondent

Playing college sports can be a dream come true for a lot of high school athletes, and in South Hampton Roads, more than 340 players are fulfilling that goal this fall.

Athletes have prepared all summer for that shift, either through personal training or team workouts at school, or at a facility such as Velocity Sports Performance in Chesapeake.

Jen Myers, a sports director and trainer at Velocity, said the staff is used to getting athletes who are preparing for college.

“They come in bringing the program for workouts with them,” Myers said, “and we usually give them a choice of doing our planned workouts that are college-based, or they can follow the book the college gave them and we will be there to push them and give them the drive to do it.”

For college-bound athletes, trainers at Velocity stress conditioning, and also teach injury prevention.

“We want to prepare our athletes for the first day they go into their college practice,” Myers said.

Tony Gregory, a running back and 2008 graduate of First Colonial High School in Virginia Beach, worked hard this summer to attend Virginia Tech. He worked out at a nearby Flex Gym with his trainer Pat McDowell and Jaton Hines, an assistant coach at First Colonial.

“I think it will be the same thing as high school, but more intense,” Gregory said.

Many local coaches prepare athletes physically and emotionally for the next step in their athletic careers.

Richard Morgan, the head football coach at Oscar Smith High in Chesapeake, said he conducts practices based on college workouts, so when players move up, they will not be shocked by the intensity.

Six of Morgan’s senior players committed to college football programs in the fall.

“You have a tremendous opportunity that not everybody has,” Morgan said. “There is a 99 percent chance that you won’t be in the NFL, but you get to go to school for free. Competing in college athletics is a privilege, and it’s good to play at a new level.”

At Nansemond River High School in Suffolk, boys basketball coach Ed Young tells his players up front about what they should be ready for in college. He describes the game as more physical, quicker, and faster than at the high school level.

But there’s more than adjusting physically, Young said. In college, you aren’t required to go to class, and there is a great amount of freedom.

“You have to adapt to the structure of the athletic demands with the independent living,” Young said.

Andre Jones, a graduate of Nansemond River High School in Suffolk, goes to Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C.

By late June, Jones already was in Winthrop’s summer-school program, aimed at helping athletes keep up with their studies during the season. Jones’ classes included sociology and history.

“Competing at the Division I level is much more difficult than high school,” Jones said.

“I came in mentally ready,” Jones said. “When it comes to my body, all I need to do is continue lifting weights, and then I will be ready by the time the season starts.”