As many of you know, this syndrome is probably one of the most prevalent during the process. It is one of the main reasons why many young athletes don’t find the right fit and end up unhappy. Yes having a dream of playing D1 sports is a great goal for young players. But when it is all said and done, that does not mean a D1 program is going to end up being the right fit, nor does it mean you are less of a player if you choose to go a different path.
Playing D1 golf can be very overwhelming for many young golfers. The demands, sacrifices, time commitments and expectations can turn out to make your experience extremely difficult if it’s not the right fit. You may find out that you aren’t getting much playing time yet you are still at every workout, every practice, every team meeting. Over time this can become frustrating and disappointing. Imagine going months at a time without getting to compete, then getting your chance to play and expecting to play well all of a sudden, that’s a lot of pressure. Or you may want to pursue a particular major or participate in a school activity but it overlaps too much with golf practice and travel. Many factors can quickly make a young golfer realize that D1 athletics was not all that it appeared to be as they were going through the process.
On the other hand, some young golfers may realize that playing a lower level of D1 golf isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be in comparison to top D2, D3 and NAIA. If you are a very competitive golfer, it’s not much fun to show up at tournaments knowing your team has no chance to win. Or having a coach who isn’t very motivated and structured with their coaching philosophy. You may realize the value in playing at a top level D2, D3 or NAIA program and the experience you could receive by being on a nationally ranked team, who competes for championships, with a coach who is dedicated and motivated.
As a huge sports fan myself I most definitely get the appeal of large athletic programs and all that they offer. I grew up a big Clemson Tiger fan. I went to basketball, volleyball and football games all through my childhood. They didn’t have women’s golf so it wasn’t an option at the time, but I chose a small school and athletic program mainly for it’s coaching, overall environment and reputation for producing LPGA players. And the thing is, I still get to be a big Clemson fan, but had 4 great years at a school and program that was the best fit for me. It is a great achievement to play for a big D1 program and it can be an awesome experience for many young golfers. And many times there is nothing you can do to predict if it will be a good fit and what you want it to be. Sometimes you just have to learn the hard way.
But keep in mind through the whole process that it is not a better achievement to play D1 golf if it’s not the right fit for you. It has to be what it is the best fit you, your goals and your golf game. I can vouch for the fact that some top D2, D3 and NAIA schools have coaches with more experience, motivation, structure and desire to build strong players and teams than some D1 coaches, so based on what you want out of your experience make sure you consider that when making your decision. Don’t get caught up in the D1 syndrome!