The Difference Between High School and College Sports … Is There One?

I was recently asked if there was a difference from covering high school sports and college sports. They also asked who was more difficult to talk to: college athletes or high school athletes. These questions have stuck in my mind, because I have recently covered high school baseball games for my internship at the “O.C. Register,” along with my duties as associate sports editor for “The New University.” I have come to the realization that there are some instances where there are large discrepancies and instances where high school and college athletics are almost exactly the same.

One of the biggest differences is access to players and coaches, both on-and-off the field. You obviously need credentials and passes to cover college athletics while you could get away without that stuff at a lot of high school events. You can pretty much go where you please and do what you want at high school events. There is a little more restriction with college, but you can still talk to players and coaches fairly easily and there is usually a director of operations who can get you access whenever you need it. For high school, it is all up to the reporter.

The athletes of both fields act surprisingly similar. There are two types of athletes I have encountered. The first type is one that is happy as can be to talk to reporters. This athlete is glad to have the chance to talk about the game, their team and themselves. These types of athletes are very easy to get information from. The other type of athlete is one that is very uncomfortable or just doesn’t want to deal with reporters. They give you very little and the reporter has to work hard on them for every bit of info. I have found out that the second case of athlete is largely strong in the college ranks. I am not exactly sure why this is, but it is something that a lot of college reporters run into. I think it is because college athletes have so much more happening in their schedules that they would rather spend their free time doing anything other than talking to journalists.

Coaches seem to act the same no matter where you go. They range from the nice and cooperative to the tough-skinned and media-hating type. All coaches respect those who respect them and really are knowledgeable. I think high school coaches develop stronger relationships with their players and are more of friends off the court than a lot of college coaches.

The one thing I like more about the high school game over the college one is the length of the contest. College games have the tendency to drag on and contain side acts like halftime shows. I prefer to watch the game, do my interviews and leave. You have to do a lot of waiting around in college athletics. I once had to wait an hour after a soccer contest to talk to a head coach. I have adopted a 20-minute rule now. You have to write the story in a timely fashion and cannot wait forever.

When asked which I prefer to cover — high school or college — I always answer with college. The college game is played at a higher level of intensity and you see things that you would not normally see at the high school level. Tradition plays a larger role at the collegiate level and that makes it just a little more special. To top it off, there’s also the undeniable fact that many college players are just one step away from the pros or Olympics and you get the feel that you are watching the most superb athletes around.