Are you ready to step on campus? Think you have what it takes to compete at the Division I level? What does it take to get there? What do I need to do to be prepared on the first day of practice?

These questions, and many others, generally go through every athlete’s head at one point in their high school experience. Your coaches are telling you the things you need to do in order to improve your game. Teachers are reinforcing the importance of your education. Your teammates telling you how much fun college is going to be. But never forget that you are committing to an opportunity where you are representing an institution of higher learning.

The expectations are uncountable. Some are up for the challenge and some run from the opportunity. Remember that you should focus on what you can control. Two big factors that you should consider using to your advantage on day one, when your first impression is made, are character and conditioning.

Without question this is the number one most important personality trait on successful teams. An athlete that takes pride in doing what is right. Putting the team before themselves. Taking care of the academic requirements, social responsibilities and giving back to a community that supports you on and off the field.

The more aspects of life that an athlete can be exposed to prior to getting to college really do give that individual an advantage. Get involved in community service. Travel the world (or at least visit other areas of the U.S.) when and where you can. Be involved in the arts, dance or music. Read about history and the life experiences of others. Challenge yourself to grow beyond your team commitments.

At the college level, a “good teammate” isn’t someone who passes you the ball. They are teammates that are generally much more than just an athlete. Having the ability to demonstrate your character and value in multiple aspects of the college experience is without question extremely rewarding. Practice expanding your comfort zone and increase your desire to help those around you. The ability to be a dynamic person will help your game, raise the level of those around you and help lead you to heights that you alone could not get to.

Conditioning is much more than just how fast you can run. Image if you had to practice for three hours against just the best players on your team. How tired would you be, mentally and physically? Ask yourself how you would feel after practicing at this intensity for a week. A month. A season. An off-season. Now imagine how you would feel after a 52-week a year commitment.

You will hear about athletes “hitting the wall” in their first season. Most athletes are not conditioned for the grueling practice schedule, academic expectations, social responsibilities and more when you agree to become a Division I athlete. Begin to prepare yourself today. Have a progressive conditioning plan. Include an appropriate comprehensives strength training routine. Begin stretching regularly, both dynamically and statically. And without question, develop healthy eating habits. Without healthy hydration and nutrition decision making the efforts you put in at practice, in the gym, weight room or during your conditioning session will be short lived.

Prepare your body over the course of you high school career to be prepared for the physical nature of the next level. It will take more than just a summer program to separate you from just being good to being great.