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How To Balance Athletics & Academics

How To Balance Athletics & Academics

It’s 2AM and Faith, a D1 soccer player for an Ivy league university, is just returning home after an away game. Before falling into bed, she emails the TA of her 8:30AM class that she won’t be able to attend, requesting to visit during office hours later that day to catch up on missed materials. 

D1 athletes face extreme pressure to keep up both their athletic and academic performance, sometimes to the detriment of their mental health. Faith, whose name has been changed for anonymity, spoke with Class Tracker on the unique pressures and challenges of student-athlete life. Here are our top tips for how to balance athletics and academics at the college level with additional insight from a current D1 student-athlete.

Master Time Management

Time management is your best tool when it comes to balancing athletics and academics. One of the easiest ways to start managing your time better is to invest in a planner. “I’m more relaxed and better prepared when I use a planner, “ says Faith, who uses both a paper planner and a dry-erase monthly calendar to stay on top of her schedule.

When you use a planner to map out your week, it’s easy to see where the gaps in your schedule lie and decide in advance how to make the most of them. Faith starts by putting in each practice, match, and travel time for away games (athletes at her college receive a binder with their sport schedule for the entire semester on their first day), and marking any class absences her sport demands. Next, she writes down major dates for exams, due dates, and finals. For an in depth guide to filling out your planner, check out our blog post on how to create a weekly plan that will make you successful in college.

Use your small gaps in your schedule wisely. It might be tempting to socialize on the bus ride to an away game, or in the lull between matches at tournaments, but those are great opportunities to study or get assigned reading done. Bring headphones if you struggle to stay focused in busy spaces. 

Take Advantage of Resources

“It can be so easy to fall into the routine of school-sport-school-sport that you don’t make time for yourself or your mental health,” Faith advises. Acknowledging the emotional stress and anxiety of student-athlete life at the D1 level, Faith recommends taking advantage of on-campus mental health services as well as outside services. At her university, students are only permitted 6 sessions per semester with a mental health counselor and wait times can be brutal. 

If you’re struggling to keep up with your academics, your school’s academic resource center can set you up with tutoring services, editing and reviewing assignments, and more. Get involved with a study group for your most challenging subjects, and don’t hesitate to visit professors during office hours if you have questions.

Talk To Your Teachers

Maintaining excellent communication with your professors or teachers goes hand in hand with taking advantage of resources. Part of Faith’s weekly routine includes emailing her professors and TAs to remind them of any absences. While the athletic program sends a notice to professors at the beginning of the semester, Faith says it’s up to students to handle the fallout of missing a class. “Even missing one class requires so much time management and planning, “ Faith advises. 

Keep in mind that your educators want you to succeed; let them know in advance if you are struggling to keep up. If you fall behind, show them that you are serious about your academics by making up assignments and tests in a timely manner. Respectful communication is key to getting the support you need.

As a student-athlete, finding the balance between studies, sports, and a social life can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Focus on your academics and long-term goals, use a planner to master your time management skills, and use all the resources at your disposal to balance your academic life with your athletic pursuits. For more on creating a balanced schedule that works for you, you can find a wealth of time management tools here on the Class Tracker blog.