"College play tough, rewarding"

"Heading into their second year at Division 1 schools, three former Bainbridge athletes say the major difference between high school and college sports is attitude.People say sports is like big business, said Britt Themann, a basketball player at Tulane University in New Orleans. It's more serious, more pressure. But it's also more rewarding. More people notice when you play well, and you've put more work into it.Themann, who led the Spartans to the 1999 state 3A championship as a prep star, said more work is required than at the high school level. Stopping one person isn't the goal anymore - stopping a whole team is, she said.Nevertheless, Themann said she had a great time in her first year of collegiate play.It was awesome, she said. I got to play more than any other freshman. One of Themann's most exciting moments was playing in the NCAA tournament, in which Tulane advanced to the second round.It was the kind of thing I'd always dreamed of - a huge gym, 15,000 people, the TV there. When it happens, it's just like 'Oh wow! I'm really here!'Though her first year was difficult, Themann said it's just part of the game. Freshmen come in all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but they don't really know what it's about, she said.Last year was all about learning the ropes and helping the team, Themann said. Sophomore year is all easy, and my coaches said that the biggest difference is between freshman and sophomore athletes. I can just concentrate on excelling.Jeff Blackinton, a sophomore-to-be baseball player at Rice University, is looking forward to hitting the field this year.I didn't get to play last year, so I was working on building up muscles, watching and learning all the subtle information you pick up around the older guys, he said.Blackinton, a catcher, said there is a world of difference between high school and Division 1 sports.Everything happens that much quicker, just a split-second quicker, he said. You have to anticipate everything.He also noticed a big difference in atmosphere.The attitude is more more businesslike, he said. To play at this level, the love has to be there, but the approach isn't, 'Let's go out and have fun.' It's 'Let's go out and win.'Some professional contract-seekers can also be problematic.The guys that are more interested in pro contracts than how we did last season - they're killing the team, Blackinton said. But, he added that most players don't let their professional ambitions mar their playing or relationship with the team: Most of the guys put that aside. It's just their American dream.Pitcher Taylor Childress, a sophomore-to-be at Vanderbilt, also recognized the seriousness of the college game.Baseball isn't a game to a lot of these people, and the coaches are there to win, he said. But I understand - it's their livelihood.When the team was in a losing streak, the athletic department came to talk to the team, and told them to start winning.It's just a different experience, Childress said. I mean, my first appearance was against LSU, with TV there and thousands of people.The pressure, however, didn't faze Childress, who said he had a great time... got a lot of playing time, and got to establish (himself) as a player and as a person.Childress said he's looking forward to returning to his Nashville, Tenn., playing field after a summer of training and playing with the Seattle Cruisers, a semi-professional team.He's also looking forward to the food.That's one nice thing about going to school down south, he said. There's this catfish restaurant right outside of Nashville that's just exquisite. "

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