Is Computer Science Ideal For Athletes?

Being an athlete requires a ton of sacrifice and soaks up most of the available free time that non-athlete students might have. Many athletes who are thinking about what they want to study in school are tailoring their decisions towards what major will be the easiest.

So the question is…is a major like computer science — a heavy workload and difficult field of study, ideal for college athletes?

I am a computer science major and division 1 college soccer player at the University of North Carolina at Asheville so I have first hand experience with managing athletics and computer science. I talk about my schedule as a CS major and student athlete…and my opinions on if a computer science degree is necessary in the video at the top of this post on my YouTube channel.

First, as with any major or field of study, if you don’t have a genuine interest in the material then you’re going to be miserable. I find that this is especially true with computer science.

Computer science involves difficult problem solving and relatively tedious coding.

I highly recommend diving into writing some code and trying out some example tutorials on YouTube just to get your feet wet and see if writing code is something you enjoy. If you find that you don’t like writing code…I venture to suggest that computer science might not be for you.

You will spend HOURS and HOURS writing and rewriting code so this is something you have to be interested in, otherwise your life will be a nightmare.

What are Computer Science Classes Like?

Most computer science classes that I’ve taken have been pretty smooth sailing for me. This is because I LOVE solving problems, writing code, and learning new ways to develop software.

Some other classmates of mine over the past 3 years of undergrad have REALLY struggled with computer science classes.

The introductory, 100-level courses in college typically have a lot of students who are just trying out computer science to see if they like it. The ones that don’t enjoy it…end up having the hardest time with the material and workload. I’ve seen this A LOT. These people either grind out the rest of the class and never take another one, or bail and switch fields of study immediately.

Your first undergraduate computer science course will consist of following along with the professor on your computer, imitating the code they’re writing.

The professor will take you through every chapter on the syllabus and you’ll write the code and run the scripts and programs along with the rest of the class. You’ll likely doing some coding examples from the textbook and have minor quizzes for the material in the textbook.

The most important part of your computer science classes will be completing projects. Actually getting hands on and solving bigger problems and working on teams with your classmates is the best experience you’ll get from a college computer science course. These will really put to the test how interested and dedicated you are to CS.

Working in teams to put together a complete project is something you’ll actually have to do when you start developing software or hardware, and proving that you can finish projects is SO important for computer science.

Later on in your computer science studies you’ll see just how much work goes into developing software and also how overwhelming the options, tools, and ways of actually putting code together really is.

It’s often the people and teams who can actually follow through with finishing projects that are the most successful.

For those people who see their first computer science course through and continue on with the journey…things start to get really tough. Problems become more complex, projects explode in size, and your workload increases 10x.

There’ll be a wide range of concepts that you’ll cover, from low level machine operations, object-oriented programming, scripting, database management, embedded systems, and numerous programming languages.

You’ll learn data analysis, application development, web development, game development, graphics, computer imaging, and maybe even electrical engineering course like circuits depending on whether you choose to systems approach or the information technology approach.

I’m more interested in the information technology side of computer science. I enjoy learning about application development (web applications, mobile applications, games, desktop applications, etc.). I prefer coding languages like Python, Javascript, Lua, and HTML/CSS. These are more high-level languages as opposed to lower-level languages like C, C++, and even Java. All languages serve a different purpose and they all have pros and cons for the problem that needs to be solved. You’ll learn fairly quickly what type of programming you enjoy and what languages you have a good experience with will tend to be what you gravitate towards.

The Advantage To Computer Science Is Being Mostly Remote

One of the biggest advantages to studying computer science is how much of the work can be done remotely. A lot of the time I’m able to relax in class and then do the actually dirty work of coding and solving problems on my computer outside of class.

Most computer science professors allow you to submit projects and exercises online and typically won’t take attendance for class which is super key for athletes.

College athletes do a ton of travelling for away competitions so they miss class frequently. Computer science courses that don’t require attendance and allow turning in assignments online is incredibly advantageous for athletes.

Honestly for this reason alone I highly recommend computer science to anyone with prospective interest in the field.

You Should Be Coding and Building Your Own Projects

The world of computer science, technology, and the internet is huge and growing faster and faster. This means that if you want to study computer science and be successful in this field, you have to keep up with the changes in technology and computing power.

Doing your own projects and solving problems on your own will keep you in shape. You’ll truly learn to appreciate the work that goes into software development and what it takes to find success.

The best way to learn all of the programming languages and concepts, it to do your own personal projects. Better yet, start projects with groups of people who are interested as well. This is by far the best way to work on your craft as a programmer.

I recommend reading this article I wrote to help you get started on your own app development project!

So, Is Computer Science Ideal for Athletes?

The answer to this question is yes, computer science is a great field of study for an athlete THAT ACTUALLY ENJOYS COMPUTER SCIENCE.

It’s pretty simple and is a good rule of thumb for any difficult major or any other endeavor in life.

If you love what you’re doing and enjoy spending a ton of time on whichever thing is that you love, it’s what you should be doing.

If you don’t love computer science, I would suggest not trying to grind through it. It will be miserable for you.

Originally published at austinhoward.tech on October 30, 2018.

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