Screaming fans. ESPN interviews. Free food. Elite training facilities.
That’s what tends to come to mind when people think about the life of Division 1 football schools and football players. You might think that once you’ve met football recruiting guidelines, you’re ready for the glamour and benefits. However, that’s only a small chunk of what it’s like to be a D1 football player. In fact, your day-to-day will be a lot of hard work.
To get a better understanding of how exactly D1 football players spend their time, we talked to NCSA head recruiting coach Zak Willis. Coach Willis’ experience ranges from grad assistant to coach to coordinator at schools such as the University of South Carolina, Michigan State and University of Miami Ohio. Not to mention his head coaching experience at various smaller colleges.
Coach Willis broke down a day in the life of a D1 football player in game season at elite training facilities, shown in the image below.
Let’s face it: A D1 football player schedule is intense! Coach Willis says that athletes are most surprised by how much time players are required to invest, with D1 teams being the greatest commitment of all the divisions.
The three main ways D1 football players spend their time outside of classes and homework are:
While the off season does offer a small break from the rigors of in-season games and practices, you are still expected to train, work out and practice with the team. Most D1 football players are also on campus for a large chunk—if not all—of their summer break. During this time, you will take summer school classes, work out and play 7on7 games to stay in shape.
Each team has its own practice schedule, but you’re probably going to practice two-three hours a day. This amounts to about 10-15 hours per week.
Yes, college football players do go to class. You might have online classes if your university offers them, but you’ll have classes to attend. They are as important as your practice and workouts.
D1 football players typically wake up super early, 5-7 AM most days. Don’t stay up too late.
There may be some time to visit your hometown to see friends and family. But generally, you’ll be back at college taking summer classes and practicing. You don’t stay a D1 athlete by slacking off. You work hard to improve your game.
Football players do get days off. You’ll most likely get some time off after the spring semester ends and some smaller breaks during the season. Your exact schedule depends on your school, coach, and the classes you take; though it should be noted that your practice schedule might be a little lighter in summer.
The NCAA requires that all D1 athletes complete at least six credit hours per semester. Most classes are about three credits hours or less; so it amounts to about two or three classes a semester. You can always take one or two more classes if you think you can handle it.
Since you’ll be practicing a little less in the summer, it’s recommended that you take the tougher courses in the summer semesters. You’ll have more time to focus on those classes and might earn better grades. This leaves the easier courses for in-season semesters when you’ll have more practice and training.
The biggest hurdle to overcome in D1 sports is time management. “The number one thing is time management as a freshman; I would hammer that point,” says Coach Willis. He adds that if a D1 football player drops out of his sport, it usually happens during his freshman year. Why? Because they couldn’t manage their time.
While the schedule of a D1 football player is tough, you don’t have to tackle it alone. Coach Willis says that various staff members can help you figure out how to manage your time and accomplish everything you need to get done.
“You still have an academic advisor at that level, and he or she will know the best route for you. Strength coaches also go through every student-athlete’s schedule and create the times when they should do strength and conditioning. Manage your time very wisely and give yourself time to eat and time to study.”
Coach Willis advises that aspiring D1 athletes know one key piece of information before they commit to competing at this level: Understand that a day in the life of a D1 football player is hard. Most of it will be away from the spotlights and stadiums. “You have to go in with the attitude that your sport is paying for your education and it’s a job—at the end of the day, it’s even more than a full-time job!” Coach Willis explains.