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How To Balance School & Sports As A Student Athlete

How To Balance School & Sports As A Student Athlete

Dec 23, 2021

Let’s face it, the life of a student athlete is a hectic one. From navigating classes, practice, weight training, visits to the athletic trainer’s office, and a social life, you’re often left with more activities than time in the day. 

You must juggle many different responsibilities, opening yourself up to unneeded anxiety and frustration when you just can’t seem to get everything done.

But playing sports should be an enjoyable and competitive experience. One that isn’t tarnished by poorly managed time. Which is why it’s crucial for you to learn how to balance school and sports.

In this article, I will address the struggles faced by student athletes in terms of time management. Though don’t worry, I will not simply highlight these struggles, but in addition, will provide you with applicable time management tips to help you navigate the world of being a student athlete.

 

The Struggles Faced By Student Athletes

My freshman year of college I interviewed for a work study job with the dean of students. You see, part of the academic scholarship I had received involved getting a position on campus. 

The interview went well, and I left with the job securely in my grasp. It was at this moment all the other responsibilities that had just been dumped on my lap came flooding into my mind. 

Fall practices were about to start, along with the five classes I was taking. I can remember stopping in my tracks at the top of the stairs leading down from the dean’s office and thinking, “Man, I’m going to be one busy guy.”

A social life hadn’t even been accounted for yet. Between three responsibilities, my new job, classes, and practice, I felt overwhelmed. At that same moment, another truth was realized…I enjoy being busy.

Instead of allowing the weight of all these new found responsibilities hold me back, I quickly grew excited because this was all I had asked for! Since high school I wanted to be a college baseball player. 

It was now happening and I wasn’t about to let poor time management keep me from enjoying my dream that had come true. 

Now, I by no means was perfect in managing my time. I experienced many of the negative effects of poorly managed time that I am about to address. The reason I started off with this story is to get you thinking in the right direction.

Being a student athlete is a blessing. One that many high school kids only dream of and your fellow classmates envy you for. So find happiness in the fact you have the problem of figuring out how to balance school and sports, because not everyone is so lucky. 

 

Negative Impact of Poorly Managed Time as a Student Athlete

What happens when we fail to properly allocate the time given to us between school and sports? As I said, not all my time in college was spent feeling the joy for how busy I was. On many occasions my different responsibilities got the best of me. 

In this case, the impact on my mental health was heavy. Along with the decline in my performance both on the field and in the classroom. Here are some of the main problems that can arise out of poorly managed time:

  • Increased Anxiety: This is probably the top one felt by most athletes. When we struggle to balance the different responsibilities given to us, it’s easy to grow anxious. Anxiety stems from worrying about what all you need to do, whether or not you’ll get it done, and if you do get it done, just how on Earth you’ll do so. 
  • Lower Classroom Performance: Spend too much time training and too little time studying and your grades will take a hit. This results in even more anxiety and you can run the risk of losing your scholarship or the eligibility to play.
  • Lower Performance on the Field/Court: Inversely to the previous bullet point, if you spend too much time focusing on the classroom and don’t give enough attention to your athletic life your performance in your sport will drop. This can lead to less playing time, or even the loss of your spot on the team. 
  • Depression: Worrying about all you have to do, witnessing your performance in either the classroom or in your sport drop, and depression will come knocking at your door. The negative thoughts that arise out of the situations spur feelings of hopelessness that lead directly to depression.

With these challenges faced by athletes, it’s no wonder time management is such a vital skill to learn. Though, surprisingly, it’s not one taught very much (at least in my experience).

In school, time and time again I heard people hammering down on the idea of balancing life and sports. However, that’s usually as far as the conversation went. But understanding the importance of something doesn’t always lead to proficiency.

It’s not good enough to simply realize the benefits of proper time management and the negative effects of poorly managing your time. You need to learn how to do so. This becomes increasingly important when you realize just how many hats a student athlete wears. 

 

"With these challenges faced by athletes, it’s no wonder time management is such a vital skill to learn. Though, surprisingly, it’s not one taught very much (at least in my experience)."

 

The Many Hats Worn By a Student Athlete

I already alluded to a few of the hats worn by student athletes, including the ones I took on with my work study role, an athlete, and a student. But these are just the beginning of the many responsibilities faced by athletes. 

So before showing you the best tips on how to properly manage your time, balancing between sports and school, let’s examine the different hats worn by student athletes.

 

The Role of an Athlete

This one’s a no brainer. If you’re going to school to play a sport, you are going to be tasked with the responsibility of being an athlete. But when we look a little deeper, we see just all this entails. 

As an athlete, you are responsible for attending practices. Sometimes these will take up two to four hours of your day. Now that’s a huge chunk of time. On top of formal practices, you will likely be expected to get some training done on your own. 

In addition to practicing your skills, weightlifting will be required. When I played, we had team weightlifting four times a week in the offseason and two to three times a week during the season.

Depending on class schedules, these were either early in the morning or smack dab in the middle of the day. 

If you’re training this much, another key component you must focus on is recovery. That means finding time to rest your body and taking care of any aches and pains you may have. This can result in another thirty minutes to an hour of time spent in the athletic training room.

 

The Role of a Student

The second no brainer is that a student athlete finds themselves in the role of a student. This means studying, attending classes, maybe going to tutoring sessions, completing homework, and so on. 

Let’s assume you take five classes a semester, which is the standard for most schools. You will be attending class for around three hours every day. Now, this may not sound like much right off the bat, but the schoolwork does not stop there. 

After class, you are expected to put forth another substantial amount of time to study, complete homework assignments, meet with a group to work on projects, and possibly team organized study hall. 

 

The Role of an Employee

Now this one may be a little more rare for a lot of athletes, but having been in the position of an employee myself while in college, I think it’s important to mention. 

If you find yourself having to get a job on campus, as a work study like me, or even off campus, say at a  restaurant, this can take up another chunk of your time. 

I was required to work ten hours a week. To anyone outside school who’s putting in forty plus hours a week, this may not seem like much. However, on top of the two previous roles I have outlined above, free time quickly begins to fade away. 

 

The Role of a College Kid

Not only are you in school to learn and play your sport, but you should also be trying to gain as much as you can out of the experience. This means spending time with friends, going to social gatherings, and attending events on campus.

Feeling the need to have a social life is natural. Though, it’s not always the easiest thing to find time for as a student athlete. After all the training, studying, and possible work you have to do, finding the time and energy to have a social life is not always easy. 

You will likely have friends outside of sports who want to spend time with you. Maybe a girlfriend or boyfriend who is pulling at your attention. And also family who wants you to talk to them. 

All of this, thrown on top of being a student, an athlete, and an employee can leave you feeling overwhelmed with the many roles and responsibilities placed on you.

 

"Feeling the need to have a social life is natural. Though, it’s not always the easiest thing to find time for as a student athlete. After all the training, studying, and possible work you have to do, finding the time and energy to have a social life is not always easy."

 

Time Management Tips For Student Athletes

Understanding the many hats worn by student athletes, it’s crucial to develop positive time management habits. I truly believe that managing your time is a skill. Not one we are all naturally gifted with, but one we all can surely cultivate. 

These tips I am about to share with you will help you build such time management skills. If you utilize them, I am sure managing the time allotted to you during your experience as a student athlete will be much easier. 

 

Tip #1: Identify Your Top Priorities

To be honest, not all student athletes have the same priorities. You may think every single one would want to be the best athlete they can be, however, I’ve seen many guys on my own team who simply played because it was something to do. 

For you, priorities must be set. In truth, it’s very difficult to balance all of the roles outlined above perfectly. Some are going to be given more attention than others. That’s okay, as long as what you’re giving the most attention to is a top priority for you. 

So when thinking about how to better manage your time, you first must identify your top priorities. To do so, ask yourself this one very important question:

“Why am I here?”

Now, you may not have ever thought about this simply put question before. But asking yourself why you are at college in the first place will help you uncover your top priorities. 

For me, I was at school to play baseball. That was the reason I went to college in the first place, and that was where the majority of my attention was placed. However, there were teammates of mine who were there because of a career they desired upon graduation.

For them, studying was more of a priority than getting some extra practice in. 

Take some time and do some introspection of this question. Then, when you feel you’ve come to an understanding of why you’re there in the first place, list out your priorities in order of most importance.

 

Tip #2: Plan on a Weekly Basis

After you’ve set your priorities, it’s time to take a look at how you will allocate your time each day. But, in order to properly manage your time on a daily basis, you need to look at your life on a slightly larger scale. 

Planning out each week makes allocating time each day much easier. For the most part, you’ll be aware of your responsibilities at the start of each week. Maybe you won’t know a month from now, but for the upcoming week what you need to do should be clear. 

Understanding this, you want to plan out what you wish to accomplish each week. A great strategy is to start off with goals for the week

List out all the responsibilities you have that week and what all you wish to accomplish. Then define specific goals for that week. That is where your focus will be. By outlining your goals for the week, you get a clear picture of where you need to allocate your time.

 

Tip #3: Use a Daily Schedule

You’re going to use the weekly goals to craft a daily schedule. 

Knowing that every day is not likely to be the same, you can’t simply set a general daily schedule. You have to make it specific for each day of the week. This can be done in two ways. 

One way is to schedule out each day at the start of the week. After you finish outlining your weekly goals, decide on what activities you will allocate to which days. 

Another way is to schedule out each day the night before. This is a better option if you feel the need to see how the previous day went before deciding on what you will do the following day. 

Either option you choose is perfectly okay, as long as it helps you ensure you’re working towards the accomplishment of those weekly targets. By setting a daily schedule for yourself, you take the guesswork out of what you will do and how you will spend your time. 

 

"By setting a daily schedule for yourself, you take the guesswork out of what you will do and how you will spend your time."

 

Tip #4: Be Flexible

This is advice I wish had been taken to heart by me in college. I was (and still am) a very routine oriented individual. Now, it’s a great way to be when you get to stick to your routine, as it generates incredible productivity.

However, when something comes up that throws a wrench in your plans, it can prove disastrous for your psyche. Whenever something happened that resulted in a diversion from my schedule, I would grow anxious over what I failed to accomplish.

Since one of the goals of better managing our time is a reduction in anxiety, growing anxious over our daily schedule is counterintuitive. For this reason, you must understand that things will come up. 

Your daily schedule will not always go perfectly to plan, and that’s okay. Always remember to be flexible, and know, if you stick to your schedule eighty percent of the time, you are leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else in terms of balancing school and sports. 

 

Final Thoughts 

The life of a student athlete is full of responsibilities. The many hats you wear can often lead to anxiety, frustration, and possible burnout. 

No one wants to have something as exciting as the opportunity to be a student athlete turn into a miserable experience at the hands of poorly managed time. 

By focusing on cultivating positive time management skills, you will increase your enjoyment as a student athlete, and ultimately increase your performance in both the classroom and on the field. 

Utilize the four tips, and watch as the tricky balance between school and sports becomes much more manageable.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and if you did, please feel free to share it with your friends. Also, if you have any questions, please leave a comment below, or feel free to reach out to me by email. 

If you are a student athlete who is struggling with balancing school and sports, or facing any other mental game challenge, it’s time to take action. Click here to learn how mental performance coaching can help successfully manage life as a student athlete. 

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

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