If you follow K-State sports, you’re probably aware that a lot of football and men’s basketball players have decided to transfer away to a different school.
This appears to be a growing trend, and — because K-State’s rosters appear to have been harmed by it — it’s generally perceived as bad.
I’m as guilty as anyone, wringing my hands about losing DaJuan Gordon from the basketball team and guys like Isaiah Zuber from the football roster. Seems generally crummy for players to quit on their team just because they’re not getting enough playing time, or they’re not getting the ball enough, or they woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Or whatever.
But I’ve thought about it a little more because my own kids are at that stage of life, going through college or going away soon. One took a couple of years off in the middle, working at a startup. One took a year off because of the pandemic. One signed to play D1 college tennis, then had to reroute himself entirely when the university he signed with dropped the program due to pandemic-related budget cuts. Another decided, after a year, that college really wasn’t for him, at least not yet. I’ve got a couple more; I have no idea what route they’ll take.
I think back to my own time, 35 years ago, going away to college. My freshman year, I told everybody how great it was, how much I loved it, how lucky I was. That last part was true and honest. But I came home for the summer and realized that I didn’t love it all that much, that I was lonesome and scared, a little fish in a big pond, rather than the other way around. I wasn’t really sure who I was anymore.
There were lots of things pulling me through all that, but there were certainly moments when I could have ditched it all and come back to K-State. My buddies there were having way more fun than I was. I didn’t have Facebook or Snapchat or Instagram to feed my fear of missing out, so that probably helped. I also didn’t have a pandemic, preventing me from socializing much.
I did stick it out, and I’m glad I did. The last two-and-a-half years of college were great for me, an experience of a lifetime. That’s not to say that coming back to K-State would have been worse; I’m just saying it all worked out for the best for me.
Lots of people transfer from one college to another, for a whole variety of reasons. The NCAA has studied this and found that athletes actually transfer less often than students in general. (Men’s basketball is the exception — they transfer more often.)
The reasons are pretty easy to understand: You’re away from home, you’re on your own for the first time, you’re in an unfamiliar community, you’re trying to figure out who you are and where your interests lie. Maybe you make some dumb decisions and have to reverse course once you realize that. Nothing wrong with any of that. Making mistakes is what young people are supposed to do; it’s how they learn. As adults, we simply hope that the cost of those mistakes is not too high.
Don’t get me wrong: I’d love it as a fan if those high-profile stars stuck here, turned the corner, and ended up All-Americans as seniors. But as a human being, I think I can get it.