While being an outstanding athlete can give you a leg up in the college admissions process by providing you with a hook (as we explore further in Well-Rounded or Specialized?), it is still a good idea to boost your resume with other activities, so colleges can see the ways you might contribute off the field as well as on it. If you are a high school athlete, you know that sports require a lot of time and energy, so you will need to find extracurricular and service activities that are meaningful but don’t compete too much with your sports and team commitments.

Depending on how interested in and committed you are to your sport or sports in general, you may decide to focus on activities that relate to athletics or branch out into different areas. You should also keep your other interests and future goals in mind when thinking about what you might want to do. Read on for tips on how to brainstorm ideas for both routes you can take while pursuing extracurricular as a student athlete.

Extracurriculars Related to Athletics

Activities Focused on Careers

If you would like to participate in activities that are relevant to sports, you have a number of options. For starters, there are many careers related to sports that don’t involve actually playing the sport, and there may be ways to prepare for these careers as a high school student.

For instance, if you are considering a career in sports medicine, you might look into possible volunteering opportunities at hospitals or clinics. Trying approaching medical professionals in your community to see if they know anyone who might be able to help you out. Some colleges also have sports medicine classes where you can learn about and practice sports medicine on student athletes. While hands-on opportunities might be limited for teenagers in this area, any ways to volunteer or shadow professionals will help you gain knowledge and experience, as well as show admissions committees how serious you are about the field.

Another career you might want to think about is sports journalism. Try reaching out to local newspapers to see if they have internships or other writing opportunities for students. You may even end up with a paying job. You could also contribute to the sports section of your high school newspaper. Try approaching the editor or faculty advisor to float ideas for sports features or columns. For more ideas on how to contribute to your school newspaper, check out Should I Join the Student Newspaper?.

Or perhaps you are interested in the business end of athletics. Sports management and marketing are two other routes you might consider. Try looking for internships with relevant companies, or ask adults (your parents, friends’ parents, teachers, etc.) if they know of anyone who might have connections in the field. You might also think about starting your own opportunity. For instance, perhaps you could start your own blog about sports. Think about your skills and how you might combine them with your passion for sports. Be creative!

Of course, you don’t have to be thinking about your future career yet—it’s certainly okay to still be exploring at this point. There are many sports-related activities that are not directly related specific careers as well.

Are there teams for younger children or people with special needs in your community? Look into opportunities for helping out. Perhaps you could coach a team or be a referee. There might also be other teams or games that could use your support through teaching, fundraising, or other means. Participating could also provide you with leadership opportunities, which, as we discuss in our guide to leadership in extracurricular activities, are very important to admissions committees.

Is there a sports trainer at your school or gym who could use some help? Ask if you might be able to contribute in some way. If you swim, you could look into lifeguarding. This could either be a volunteer or paid opportunity, depending on the pool, beach, or club. Also consider working at a sports supply or gear store.

Extracurriculars Unrelated to Athletics

Maybe you love sports but want to branch out and explore other interests or try something entirely new. Start with activities that have interested you in the past or ones you have been meaning to try. What do you do during off seasons or when you aren’t able to play sports?

If you are interested in community service or volunteer work, start by thinking about its purpose and meaning for you. Whom do you want to help? What kinds of causes matter to you?

Devoting your attention to an entirely new activity might actually help you focus better during your sports, since you will be able to take a break and know that you can do something else for a little while.

Pursuing Extracurricular Activities Outside of Sports

So how do you go about getting started with these new ideas? As discussed above, you could start by asking adults, including parents, teachers, guidance counselors, or community members for their thoughts on how you should proceed. If you know someone in a field related to the activity you want to pursue, check with him or her on what steps you should take.

Your peers might be good resources, too. Try checking with friends who have similar interests to you or are also athletes. They might be able to give you the names of organizations they work with and offer helpful pointers for getting involved. You should also check with teammates, since they have similar schedules and time constraints and may have ideas on how to fit extracurriculars in.

Be sure to check out CollegeVine’s guides to specific activities as well. We have a host of guides on how to get started in a range of activities, from art to music to mock trial.

If you can’t find an activity you might like to do, consider starting your own. Creating a new club or volunteer group shows initiative and leadership skills, which will impress admissions committees. Check out our guides The Dos and Don’ts of Joining a Club Your Senior Year and Is It Too Late to Join a Club Junior or Senior Year? for tips on how to get started.

Things to Keep in Mind

Between school and sports, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Adding other activities on top of that can be stressful. Be sure to prioritize and make sure you are not overcommitting.

It might be helpful to make a schedule of your week and calculate the hours you need to dedicate to schoolwork, sports, and other extracurricular activities. Be realistic about how much time everything will take and how much energy you will need to get through the day. You should also factor in time for sleeping—it’s easy to forget, but it is an essential part of a busy schedule. Depending on your other commitments, you may not be able to manage more than one extracurricular activity at a time. Check out our guide How to Effectively Balance Your Time in High School for more advice on managing a hectic schedule.

You will also need to consider the demands of your sport. Depending on your training, practice, and game schedules, you may need to choose a flexible activity or only attend on days you don’t have your athletic commitment.

Be sure you are choosing an activity that is truly interesting and important to you. It should be something that has meaning to you beyond how it might impact your college applications; if you aren’t passionate about it, it will end up being a chore for you. It is also better to choose one activity and truly commit that dabble in a range of activities to which you aren’t making a meaningful contribution. This isn’t just because quality is better than quality—although it’s true that that is usually the case—but because it enables you to develop relationships with peers and advisors who might be able to help you in other areas, such as writing letters of recommendation.

Ultimately, as long as you are managing your time well and being realistic about your expectations, there is a range of valuable activities available to you. Be creative and experiment with your interests and talents. For more ideas, check out our comprehensive guide to extracurricular activities.

Be sure to check our grade-by-grade guides to extracurriculars as well:

A Guide to Extracurricular Activities for Grade 9

A Guide to Extracurricular Activities for Grade 10

A Guide to Extracurricular Activities for Grade 11

A Guide to Extracurricular Activities for Grade 12

Also take a look at our posts on athletics and your college applications:

How to Get Noticed by College Sports Recruiters

A Brief Guide to Athletic Recruitment

Navigating the Rules of Athletic Recruitment

What You Need to Know for a Successful Scholarship Season

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works in publishing. She also writes, dreams of owning a dog, and routinely brags about the health of her orchid.
Laura Berlinsky-Schine