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Panthers in College: Zach Osburn

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Over the course of the summer wopanthers.com will be interviewing several West Ottawa Alumni who have continued playing a sport at the college level. Look for more of these articles soon, to find them click here.

By: Maggie Smith

Not only was Zachary Osburn academically talented, he also was a gifted athlete. With good Christian morals and humble personality, Osburn represents what it is like to be a good role model. Going from playing a high school sport, to competing in college athletics is a dramatic change. Osburn played both football and basketball for West Ottawa, but remembered the challenges he faced entering the world of college athletics. The playing time was not what he expected, the team chemistry was completely different, time management and balancing academics was a handful, and the competition increased tremendously.

A number of the freshman college athletes expect to see a lot of playing time, as they did when they were in high school. “I played at two schools in college, and at both schools I didn’t see much playing time my first year,” said Osburn. He added that this was very normal for freshmen, and that players needed to earn their time on the court or field. “I would always encourage an incoming freshman or first year player to set high goals while understanding the nature of the team and what it’s like to earn playing time.  It’s sort of a fine line to balance between competing for playing time and giving your best effort, and learning how to be supportive of the people who have been there for three years already, working their tails off.”

“One of the other differences is that a lot of times in high school you spend 5, 6, 7…years with your friends or people you know and play sports together. In college, there is this process of trying to navigate meeting someone and becoming their close teammate in a much shorter amount of time, and a lot fewer opportunities to know each other.” In high school, students have been playing together for a number of years. Entering a college team, athletes are introduced to a whole new environment and way of play. The chemistry within the team still needs to be formed making it very different from high school sports.

In college, the commitment and dedication to not only the sport, but also the school work needed to be shown. In high school, balancing practice and homework could’ve been a handful. But studying for four college classes and practicing a sport everyday requires discipline and time management. He shared, “Up front, you know what the time commitment is for the sport, because normally coaches lay out a schedule for you.” Osburn found it was helpful to plan a schedule around his day and practices allowing spare time for other academic work and fun activities. “My advice would be don’t waste time, and expect that it will go well if you give your best,” Osburn
added.

A major difference between high school and college athletics is the competition. An all-conference player in high school, in many cases, is going to be on a college team with a lot of other all-conference players. The player will be matched with teammates who are at, or above, their skill level. “In almost all cases, the players are bigger, faster, stronger, more talented, smarter, and better coached,” Osburn said. The competition for playing time is fierce. “Not all the time, but sometimes high school sports can be more playful and ‘for the love of sport,’ so to speak, and college sports can be more business-like,” Osburn explained. High school athletes need to be coached in a way that prepares them for tough competition. In college there is no room for half-dedicated players. Athletes are expected to be playing the sport with 100% dedication and heart.

Osburn received an athletic scholarship to play football at Northern Illinois University. He put in two years of hard work for the Northern Illinois Huskies before transferring to Hope College, where he finished his final two years of college while playing both football and basketball for the school.