Redshirting an option for athletes

Robert Burkett

In the realm of sports, there are levels of competition regardless of the game. For some athletes, the skills needed to make the leap from one level to another can take time to develop.

In the jump from high school to the college level, athletes who have become used to being the top athlete in their community or school are sometimes faced with the reality that they are just one of many talented athletes facing off against opponents, who are in some cases four or five years older than them.

This disparity can be daunting and is recognized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association through their definition of a non-competing athlete, or redshirt freshman.

According to its Web site, the NCAA states that a “redshirt” season refers to a year in which a student-athlete does not compete at all against outside competition. During a year in which the student-athlete does not compete, a student can practice with his or her team and receive financial aid.

Redshirting is seen at Washburn as a crucial tool in the development of athletes both on and off the field.

“We look at the redshirt experience as an opportunity for players to come in and develop physically as they adjust to the level of competition they face,” said Washburn football defensive coordinator Chris Brown.

For some athletes such as football players, where intricate strategies are employed on the field, learning a new system of strategy that is extremely complex in comparison to their high school experience is invaluable.

“We redshirt players as a way to get players into our system and give them time to pick up on the different assignments and nuances of our game plans,” said Brown.

Beyond the on-field adjustments, athletes see the redshirt year as an opportunity to adjust to the differences in academic challenges during the transition from high school to college.

“I really was glad I had the chance to spend time concentrating on the school work side of things so I would feel confident about academics,” said redshirt freshman Brandy Hirsch, a midfield on the soccer team.

Other students that spend a year redshirting do so not only for academics, but also to help ease the transition in moving far from home for the first time. Student-athletes like redshirt freshman safety Patrick Myrick, who came to the Washburn football program from Greenville, N.C., use that year to help themselves prepare for the pace of college.

“I feel like the redshirt year really helped me ease into the college experience,” said Myrick. “I feel like the redshirt experience was 100 percent positive for me.”