Playing sports in high school can help you in college
Alex Leonard played on both the Apex junior varsity basketball team and the varsity team. He graduated in 2017. He now attends Virginia Wesleyan University and is apart of the Batten Honors College. The following interview is about the skills he gathered as a player that have helped him in college.
- What was your position when you played at Apex High School?
I was a big man. I was the guy that got rebounds.
- Can you talk a little about your experience playing sports in high school?
For me it wasn’t anything different than any other extra curricular whether it was basketball or Boy Scouts. I did it for fun because I really enjoyed it. I didn’t think I would go play college ball, but I had fun, and it kept me really healthy. I liked the people on the team. It was something I had worked really hard for.
- What was your favorite part of playing sports in high school?
The first thing that comes to mind is the food we got when we traveled. No, I think if you weren’t an athlete it was really hard to know people from other schools. When I played basketball I knew players from other schools, and because of that whenever I would travel to other schools, it would be like ‘Hey man, what’s up.” Other than that, yeah it was kind of cliche-y, and I had good friends because of it that I am still in contact with now, three years later. But personal connections with everybody whether that was coaches or players, even ones from other schools, that was the best part.
- What was the transition like from playing sports almost on a daily basis to not?
I still play sports almost on a daily basis. When I’m in college, me and my two close friends who played basketball in high school and the athlete that I live with, we will go to the gym and play basketball or go lift or play racquetball, volleyball. It’s really nice because in high school we worked out because we had to for sports and to stay active, but now we lift because we looked ripped.
- What skills did you learn from playing sports helps you the most in college?
I had a tough coach, Coach Neal. I love Coach Neal, and I respect Coach Neal, but he was tough. He was drill sergeant tough with what he expected of us on the court and off the court. Him, Coach Philips, and a couple of the other coaches were tough on all of us athletes. They had high expectations of us. I had high expectation on myself, but being in a sport with someone so tough on you all the time, you go to college, and you have professors like that. They don’t want you wasting their time. They don’t give you second chances if you mess up. If you mess up, they will call you out in front of the whole class. Everyone else at Apex was really nice, but in college the professors are a lot tougher.
- How does your background help you academically in college?
Of course we had to be organized, we had lifting and practice. It was a lot of organization, time management, prioritizing. In high school I never had to worry about it, but in college and what I have to do now there is a different aspect in which something will count more, and I have to study for that more. You have to be able to prioritize. Work in an agenda, a callender, list what you have to do. Those things started out in high school from sports.
- How does your background help you socially in college?
Definitely with girls, I won’t lie. But being an athlete kept me in shape, and I’m still in shape now. I will play intramurals with my friends. There is always something for us to do, athletically. And it is never just between my inner group of friends. We’ll go play pick-up and four new guys will come in and join. We’ve gotten to meet a lot of new guys that way. It’s nice to meet, especially being in an honors college with how secluded we are, it helps us to reach out.
- What opportunities has playing sports opened up to you that you might not have gotten otherwise?
There is a video of me getting dunked on by Zion Williamson, who is the number one basketball player in the country right now. I got to meet a lot of people. We went to tournaments and met a lot of people there. One of my fraternity brothers is at a conference right now, and there was a guy there who went to Holly Springs. He recognized my name because we played basketball against each other. I got training that helped me work on myself. It just made us better athletes.
- What do you miss the most about playing basketball?
Games, fans, and going out and playing in front of a bunch of people. Now, even if we play intramurals, there aren’t as many people overall. I miss games and game nights. I miss the guys, and I miss being able to hang out and walk around campus together.
- Why do you think playing sports is such a valuable extracurricular?
Honestly, any extracurricular is important. It could be Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, one of the honors societies. Extracurriculars are so important. I’m in an honors college, and the skills from other extracurriculars are very visible. Going to school and getting good grades is great; having extracurricular teaches you new skills. It teaches you time management. I was pretty good at it in high school and it still hit me in the face in college. Having any extracurricular, colleges love that. They love seeing you active in the community, active athletically or intellectually. When you go to college you bring something other than your brain. You bring your attitude, your character, your morals, ideas. You bring your service and your heart and your passion. Without that, every student would be boring, and no one would be able to stand out. No one would be unique.
As high school students, we know how important extracurricular activities are. But so often we lose focus on why they are important. The skills acquired from these activities are not only valuable to get into college, but for life after acceptance and graduation.