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Transition Game : Some Athletes Find That They Don't Fit Into Collegiate Sports as Well as They Did Those on the High School Level

May 28, 1996|WENDY WITHERSPOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

So, you're going off to college--your bags are packed with extra long twin sheets for those odd-sized dorm beds and you're wearing the same sweatshirt with the giant school logo that you've been wearing since you got your acceptance letter.

But what has become of your soccer ball and baseball glove? Have you left them in your bedroom as shrines to your high school glory years? Or, have you tucked them under your arm along with a bag of high hopes?

For the majority of high school athletes, facing the future means making tough decisions about sports. Even if an athlete is lucky enough to walk on to a college team or--even luckier--to get a scholarship, he or she often faces a rude awakening in a college gym. For most, growing up means leaving behind interscholastic athletics.

Lana Bordcosh ran track and played soccer for four years at Fountain Valley High School and was selected most inspirational track athlete her junior and senior years, but never was selected all-league. She also ran one year of cross-country.

Bordcosh chose to attend UCLA for academic reasons; she wants to be a doctor. She had decided not to pursue athletics after high school, but she grew restless in her dorm during the fall of her freshman year in 1994.

"It was very, very hard to make the transition. I got frustrated because I was so used to spending my time doing some kind of athletic activity," she said. "I really identified [with sports] . . . Subconsciously, [not playing sports] was bothering me."

So Bordcosh gathered her courage and walked into the office of UCLA track Coach Jeanette Bolden, who won a gold medal with the U.S. 400-meter relay team at the 1984 Olympics. Since 1982, members of the Bruin women's track and field team have won 24 individual NCAA titles. But Bordcosh was undaunted.

"I said, 'This is something that is very important for me and I'm willing to go out there every day. I think I have potential,' " Bordcosh said. "[Bolden] said she wasn't promising anything but [said], 'We'll see how you come along.' "

Bordcosh concentrated on the long jump, but after working all spring last year, her best jumps were in the low 18-foot range. The top college women long jumpers go at least two feet farther than that.

"I found out it's not my level," Bordcosh said.

Bordcosh also discovered that track practice often conflicted with classes she needed to take. She realized she had to make a decision.

"As time progressed, I started to find out that I was forced to prioritize. It was a big time commitment, four hours a day," she said. "I also realized that I wasn't going to the Olympics and I didn't want my grades to be in jeopardy."

What's more, Bordcosh found the team interaction much different than on her high school team. She felt different from many of UCLA's Olympic hopefuls, for whom track is much more than just an after-school activity.

"I didn't feel the same sense of belonging that I had in high school," she said.

So Bordcosh settled back into academic life as a sophomore in fall without intercollegiate athletics. She still works out every day with a friend in the students' gym and competes in intramural athletics for fun.

"When I go to the track and I see it, I think I made the right decision, although I do miss it. But I miss the feeling that I got from high school track. It will always be a passion," she said, noting that she recently attended the Pacific 10 track and field championships at UCLA as a spectator. "But for now, I'm happy sitting on the bench."

Unlike Bordcosh, many high school athletes settle quickly into college life without competitive athletics.

Kory Kramer helped Santa Margarita to a third-place finish in the Southern Section finals of the 400-meter relay last year. But Kramer, voted most likely to succeed as a Santa Margarita senior, has moved on to other activities at Boston College.

Kramer was named managing editor on one of Boston College's student newspapers, The Observer, and is one of 20 student justices on the school's student judicial board. He also helped found a chapter of the St. Thomas More Society, a Catholic student organization.

"I didn't have time. I wanted to try something else. After playing four years in high school and succeeding at it, I wanted to try something else to succeed in at college," Kramer said.

Similarly, Jayne Nichols was burned out on athletics after playing sports year-round for four years at University High before graduating last year. She began playing soccer at age 4 and played four years of soccer and tennis at University. She also ran track as a freshman and played softball as a sophomore as well as playing three years of club soccer.

"Sports were a passion for me. [They] totally enveloped me. That defined who I was in high school," Nichols said.

Nichols wasn't offered any scholarships and decided to attend USC to major in nursing. Trojan soccer Coach Karen Stanley encouraged Nichols to try out for the team.

Nichols carried her cleats to the field and sat down.

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