Student-athlete: There is a reason why student appears first. Being a student comes first, but college is also the time to discover your hobbies, passions and future career.
This past year I was a first-year student at Trinity University where I also was a first-year softball player. The immense workload that I carried throughout the year was shocking, to say the least. While in season, a student-athlete’s schedule consists of practices six days a week, morning and evening workouts, film sessions and conditioning, as well as other challenges every first-year student encounters (social adjustment, career exploration, school work, etc.).
Here are some helpful tips to the “fresh meat” about to be thrown into the college sports melting pot:
1. Learn how to say no
A student-athlete’s schedule demands being a full-time student and a full-time athlete. Friends will beg you to spend time with them. Saying no allows you to get ahead versus stressing over your procrastination during a big game. This means that some Fridays and Saturdays have to be dedicated to studies and work instead of the stereotypical toga party.
2. Organization and time management
These are good skills to have as a student, but as a student-athlete they must be your best qualities. You will have workouts, class, practices and games, not to mention missed tests and lectures due to away games. Buy a calendar and place it somewhere that it will be seen every day. College athletes have to be on top of their game on the field and in the classroom.
3. Own your moment
Practice or game time should be a time for relief; a time for the academic stresses and pressures to melt away. Discipline your mind to know when to focus on school and when to focus on athletics. Use this time to break from the chaos of homework and enjoy the sport. Live and thrive in the moment where all worries disappear.
4. Break out of your comfort zone
College will hold some of your wildest and funniest memories. Don’t make these years all about academics and athletics. Join a club and meet new people from different backgrounds and cultures. Living in the confines of school and sports can make someone go crazy, so live a little. Make some time for stress relief and be spontaneous.
5. Bond with your teammates
Remember that the team is in it together. You can always turn to the other athletes for advice on the better teachers and which classes to take for a desired major (sometimes they can be more helpful than advisors). Take classes with your teammates. This will not only help you bond with them, but will also create an automatic study group. On long road trips, they can help you study for a major test or tackle difficult homework. Plus, you’ll have someone to sit with in class instead of awkwardly sitting by a stranger.
6. Cultivate good relationships with professors
You have no idea how crucial this is to all college students, especially athletes. Introduce yourself on the first day of class and let them know what sport you play. Immediately send them your season schedule so they will know what days you will be gone. Go to their office hours! I repeat: Go to their office hours! If you ask for help, they will give it to you. Professors love helping students who are eager to excel and learn, so never stop asking for help.
A study done by the NCAA showed that only three percent of college athletes go on to play their sport professionally. The other 97 percent of college athletes’ futures rely not on their athletic performance but their academic performance. Most college athletes need to consider that their collegiate athletic experience is a tool to get a degree, instead of the main focal point of college. There are many benefits of being a successful student-athlete. It will show future employers that you have dedication and focus, a great work ethic and the ability to learn and to work well with others toward a common goal. What you do on the field and in the classroom will reflect your performance in your career. So play hard, but study harder.