Beyond Athletics Recruiting Responsibility

Being A Classy Opponent Is More Important Than Winning

helping hands

(Flickr – Jon Marshall)

Have you heard about this shark attack already?

It’s been the talk of the sporting world – and obviously for good reason. Surfing insiders say while there’s always the possibility of sharks, never has an encounter like this been caught on live video, and with such a happy ending, since surf competitions started airing on television a few decades ago.

In the days since the attack, Mick Fanning has said he’s been doing some soul searching. I guess that’s probably what you do when you see your life literally flash before your eyes by way of a Great White fin.

He’s also looking forward to getting back in the water in a few weeks or so. Something that to most, seems almost unimaginable. Talk about a love for his sport.

As if the story isn’t surreal enough, let’s cut to Julian Wilson. He’s the 26 year-old who was a finalist alongside Mick Fanning in the South African surf competition over the weekend. He’s also the one who swam towards Fanning to try and help save his life when he saw the attack.

Wow.

It’s hard to imagine a more heroic impulse. No competition, no prize money, no second thought – he was ready to risk his life for the guy out there with him on the water, a guy he probably didn’t know all that well, a guy he’d been fighting to beat all week. His actions are nothing short of remarkable.

It got me thinking about what I would do in that situation. And furthermore, the kind of opponent I used to be as a student-athlete.

Why being a classy opponent is important

We talk a lot about character at NCSA. The character you show and the way you speak and act is going to either go a long way with college coaches, or is going to be what holds you back from some incredible opportunities.

As a student-athlete, and as simply part of mankind, the way you treat the people who aren’t necessarily your friends, or on the same team, or at the same school or grade, says a lot about who you are.

Respect. Kindness. Compassion in the face of adversity. Everyone deserves those things. Are you a Wilson?

How can you be an everyday hero? How can you be the right kind of opponent?

Bullying ends with you

It’s not just being a classy opponent. Sometimes, you have to stand up for what’s right for other people on your team, too.

No athlete is going to be a stand-out performer and play in college if they’re bullying. It’s just not the kind of character coaches are looking for. It’s senseless, it’s evil, it’s scary.

Standing up for a friend – or foe – in the face of a bully could literally save a life. Maybe they’ve been waiting for just one person to help them out. If stepping up to the bully doesn’t seem like the smartest or safest choice, tell a teacher or a parent immediately.

As a student-athlete, you have the incredible power of being a leader and an influencer, and of letting the underdog know you have their back.

After watching Mick Fanning stand up to a Great White shark – a jerk calling the freshman names on the stairwell doesn’t seem so bad.

Look out for those in need

How you present your character to college coaches goes beyond being a classy opponent on the field. When you’re looking to add activities to your college application this summer, think about ways you can help the less fortunate around you.

This is what everyday heroes are made of. From organizations dedicated to particular causes, to lending a hand to a neighbor, or even your teachers in their classrooms preparing for the school year, look for ways to give the most precious gift of all: time.

And as I’ve written before, make sure you write down what you’re doing, and what you think about it.

Getting your thoughts down on paper will help you process your emotions and communicate with clarity and leadership. It will help you practice the kind of personal statement you want to write on your digital recruiting profile. And it will make you stand out on your college application.


Getting through the recruiting process is just as much about character as it is about your athletic talents. It’s something our scouts know all about.

They’re always here to chat with you about your personal recruiting journey. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.

About the author
Laura Chmiel

Laura Chmiel is a marketing coordinator and a lead writer for NCSA Athletic Recruiting. As someone with a passion for athletics and education, she graduated from Indiana university with a B.S. in Elementary Education. After school, she gained first-hand experience helping student-athletes and their families get to college.