Balancing Academics and Athletics

If you’re an athlete in college, it’s certain that your contribution and performance is very important to you. While there are many rewarding opportunities associated with being a student-athlete, many continue to struggle in finding the appropriate balance between academics and athletics.  In addition, college freshmen may have the hardest time adjusting to this balance as they’re already dealing with the pivotal transition from high school to college. But with the right attitude and planning, student-athletes can successfully achieve a proper balance between academics and athletics.

Time Management

Regardless of whether you’re a student athlete, this is a vital component of being successful in college and later on in life. In fact, the time management skills you develop as a student will be a huge indicator as to how well you manage your time as a professional and in other circumstances. Consequently, this skill is something we should always look to refine. Realize that as a student athlete, academics and athletics will consume the majority of your time.

Acknowledge Your Responsibility

While you have a commitment to your team and coach, academics must always come first. At the end of the day, athletics will always be an extracurricular activity and does not guarantee you an athletic career after graduation. Of course, some students do achieve this route, but it is simply not realistic to assume that athletics will be your gateway to a successful professional career.

Determine Eligibility Requirements

Depending on what level of collegiate sports you participate in, each tier will have different eligibility requirements. Along with those initial requirements, student-athletes are also required to maintain a specific grade point average and follow a course completion track. However, requirements for participating on an intramural sports team depend on the college or university you are attending. These standards differ even further for those students who are receiving an athletic scholarship. Be sure to research this information from the start to avoid financial and academic hardships down the road.

Use Your Resources

Rather than waiting until you run into trouble with your professors, or your grades start to slip, become familiar with academic services. There’s no shame in referring to these services as such centers are equipped to address the needs of student athletes.
It’s also helpful to have a frank discussion with your professors at the start of each semester to assure them that school is your first priority. Most of the time, professors are willing to work with students who demonstrate a commitment to their studies. Lastly, some sports teams also offer their own academic benefits such as study groups and tutoring services. Enduring the challenges of balancing academics and athletics tends to be more bearable when utilizing the support of your teammates.

Protect Your Image

Student-athletes tend to be the center of attention, on and off-campus. This means they have the additional responsibility of maintaining a positive image of the school and themselves. To avoid negative publicity, and to protect your name in the long run, be sure to continue positive interactions between other students, sports teams, teammates, coaches, professors, administrative staff and so forth.

Treat Your Sport as an Escape

Realistically, student-athletes continue to play sports in their college careers due to their love of the game. But aside from one’s enjoyment of a sport, it also serves as a stress outlet that many of us need to recuperate and maintain our focus on school. Along with the physical benefits, sports have outstanding benefits for our cognitive function. So, the next time you’re stressing over a term paper or that next big exam, taking some time to blow off steam with your teammates might just be what you need. Viewing your involvement in a sports team in this light will turn it into a healthy outlet, rather than a burdening chore.

Take Advantage of Networking Opportunities

Since a professional athletic career is not promised to any college athlete, this is the time to hone the skills that being a part of a sport team fosters: teambuilding and leadership. The social networks that you develop as a college athlete will help you learn the tools you need to be successful in the business world, as well as exposing you to people that may help you find a job after graduation.

Find a Shoulder to Lean On

No one knows better what you’re going through than your teammates and coach. While we’ve already touched upon the value of developing and maintaining a good relationship with your professors, nothing beats the support you will receive from your team. Coaches tend to act as the crutch of the team by assisting athletes through emotional turmoil and pushing them to do better academically. A good coach will recognize and ensure that school always comes first.

Stay Motivated

Aside from the school’s and collegiate sports divisions’ incentives for maintaining good grades, try giving yourself personal incentives or goals to reach each semester to ensure you’re satisfied with the amount of effort and progress you’re making within both realms. This will motivate you to stay on your team and reach that grade point average you’ve been aiming for since you began your college career. At the end of the day, your ability to stay motivated will test your dedication to sports and the will to improve, making the obstacles you face worth the reward.  Just remember that you took on sports and school simultaneously for a reason!

Give Yourself Some Downtime

As much as you want to do it all, and well, all the time, realize that everyone needs a break from time to time. Considering you have to handle more responsibilities than the average college student as an athlete, it’s important to give yourself breaks in order to avoid burning out. Burning out will only make your responsibilities more burdensome in which the quality of your school and athletic performance will suffer, as a result.

Resources:
Braun, M. (2013, April 23). Finding a balance: college student athletes. Retrieved from http://sites.jmu.edu/103molloy/finding-a-balance-college-student-athletes/
Durham, C. (n.d.). 5 benefits of participating in a college sport. Retrieved from http://sites.mediaplanet.com/higher-education-news/5-benefits-of-participating-in-a-college-sport
How college athletics can enhance academics. (2013, July 11). Retrieved from http://www.briarcliffe.edu/Student-Life/Briarcliffe-Blog/July-2013/How-College-Athletics-Can-Enhance-Academics
Striking the balance between school and sports: ncaa eligibility. (2012, September 11). Retrieved from http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/striking-the-balance-between-school-and-35205/
Wambuch, C. (2013, May 10). Athletes in the classroom: how to balance athletics and academics. Retrieved from http://cehdvision2020.umn.edu/cehd-blog/balance-athletics-and-academics/
Williamson, J. (n.d.). Balancing sports and academics. Retrieved from http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/15885/1/Balancing-Sports-and-Academics.html

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