The Balancing Act of Student-Athletes in College and High School
“Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create.”
~ Jana Kingsford
Being a student-athlete is challenging in so many ways. Not only are you expected to excel in your sport, but you also have to do well in the classroom. It’s even more difficult if you have to maintain a specific gpa to continue to receive a scholarship. I tell my clients it’s like juggling a bowling ball, flaming torch, and knife. Each of these very different items needs a different level of attention, different amount of force to keep them in orbit, and different technique to catch.
Playing sports naturally consumes a lot of time. Athletes have to train, travel for games, spend some time recovering, and participate in other training activities. They hardly have enough time for themselves, which means they have to carve out extra hours for academics if they do not want to fall too far behind.
Are you a student-athlete finding it hard to balance both worlds? In this article, you can find tips on how to tackle the challenges that student-athletes face to help you feel more balanced as you navigate through school and life.
What it’s like being a student athlete
Being a student-athlete is like working two jobs, but succeeding in both jobs can be overwhelming. Many student-athletes have to commit up to 20 hours weekly to practice (which they most times exceed) plus 12 credit hours every semester and some other time devoted to studying.
These hours are rigorous, and quite different compared to the life of students who do not have athletic commitments. Student-athletes can be under a lot of stress. They deal with:
- Academic pressures
- Physical strain
- Less sleep/relaxation hours
- Practice hours
- Travel schedule clashes
- Emotional worries and trauma
- Performance anxiety
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- __________ (you fill in the blank)
How can you balance your academics with athletics?
Many student-athletes sometimes forget the part where they are students, and focus mostly on their sports life, which would be nice…..but as a student-athlete, you might have to remind yourself that you’re not in high school or college to only excel in sports, but also graduate and earn some type of degree.
So, how do you stay on track to fulfill academic requirements, have a semblance of a social life, all while participating in your given sport? Of course, it’s easier said than done, but here are a few tips. Most of these may just be reminders of what you most likely already know:
- You can free up some time by prioritizing, identifying, and eliminating activities that are not as valuable in the scheme of your life. For example, everyone wants to be caught up on social media, but checking Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook, You Tube and Twitter can be a huge time suck if overused.
- Try not to wait till the last minute to study. I know, I know….we all have moments of procrastination. I can remember pulling all-nighters with a constant caffeine infusion so I could for example, write up an organic chemistry lab report due the next morning that I had been ignoring and trying to wish away. Instead of cramming, utilize good study habits to stay focused. This may include structuring your time, maybe using a daily planner on your phone or tablet to track deadlines and schedules. I’m always amazed when clients tell me, “Naw, I don’t write anything down.” Skim over notes every day, so that the material doesn’t look like a foreign language when you go to study for this week’s exam . Or even reading just 15-30 min per evening of the 600 page novel for the English Literature elective you chose.
- Make the most of the academic resources at your disposal. Work with your teachers/professors, and use study groups and tutors to help you catch up if you need to.
- Work with a therapist familiar with athlete mental health to help you sort through any emotional unrest that could distract you from bringing your A-game to the classroom, or to your sport. Therapy may include learning tools for stress management, for communication, and how to challenge negative thinking. As a team, you can create a healthy balance between your social/personal, sports and education priorities.
Being a student-athlete doesn’t mean the end of having a healthy, balanced life. Use your existing personal discipline, plus ask for help from coaches, professors, teachers, therapists and academic counselors, to continue to plan more effectively over time.