Leaving the familiar comfort of high school and heading to college is undoubtedly a life-changing step, but for those who are also student athletes, you’re quickly learning that this transition comes with added challenges.
But don’t fret! We’ve got good news. With hard work, dedication, and some smart planning, you’ll be able to tackle (see what we did there?) your school year and achieve your goals—both athletically and academically.
But navigating the world of college sports while balancing a successful academic career can be overwhelming. Here are 10 essential tips that will help keep you on track.
Study resources for the courses you’re actually taking—whenever you need them.Start here
Make it your job.
A major key to success is treating your studying and practice like they’re your job. Don’t be late to team meetings, don’t leave training sessions early, but make sure to complete all of your homework on time and to make studying your first priority. After all, that’s why you’re there!
Keep an accurate calendar of all your class times, study groups, practices, games, etc. Google Calendar is a great way to stay on top of your schedule on your computer and on your phone. Organization will be your best friend as you’re managing school, sports, and your social life.
Make new friends.
Making friends outside of your teammates and coaching staff is crucial for when the pressures of training become too much or you can’t get your mind off an upcoming game. Reach out to and connect with people in your dorm and in your classes. College is about branching out and meeting new people! Some schools even provide volunteering opportunities or offer clubs catering specifically to athletes with a common interest.
Be prepared to fail.
With all the stress and pressure of doing your best, remain mindful that the time will come when you don’t do so well. Maybe you do poorly at your game and feel like you let your team down. Perhaps you need to retake a test or do extra credit in class. Be prepared for these moments and remember that a single mistake or poor performance doesn’t define you.
Plan for life beyond sports.
You may have dreams of becoming a professional athlete, but make sure that you cultivate the skills needed to be successful in life after college. Come up with a game plan for obtaining your academic goals and working toward a specific field or career. Work on being financially responsible. When you graduate you’ll need to be able to stand on your own two feet.
Stay dedicated to your schoolwork.
The NCAA guidelines supplied to you entail the requirements to compete, but make sure you don’t just aim to meet the minimum requirements. Poor grades can sideline your season, and academic penalties can end your athletic enrollment. Start a study group to hold you accountable and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Speaking of…
Ask for help—often.
If you find yourself struggling with everything on your plate, ask for help. There are athletic academic advisors who help specifically with the unique challenges facing student athletes. These advisors can set you up with tutors and study halls and help facilitate meetings with coaches and teachers.
Keep an open dialogue with your teachers as well. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Go to office hours, and be an active participant in your education. Don’t expect special treatment because you’re an athlete. They’re there to do their job, which is to educate and to prepare you for the real world after school.
Be patient with yourself.
If you were the best player in high school be ready for an eye-opening experience. There will be athletes who are stronger and faster than you and students who are smarter or further ahead in their studies. Don’t let this discourage you. It’s easy to feel like an outsider, but allow yourself an adjustment period. Remember that everyone is there for the same goal! Use others’ success as motivation to study and work hard, and learn from your classmates and teammates as well.
Don’t forget about nutrition…and sleep.
Practices, classes, games, homework, exams … are there enough hours in a day? You may be feeling overwhelmed, but put your health at the top of your priority list. Not getting enough sleep and making poor dietary choices will greatly affect your performance on the field and in the classroom, and increasing the chance of illness and injury.
Sometimes being on a specific sports team can come with a level of notoriety. Take pride in the work that you do and celebrate the successes of your team, but maintain a level head. Accomplishments that come from hard work will always be more rewarding than reveling in a short-lived popularity.
And don’t let athletic success distract from your schoolwork. Whether it’s after your college years or after a professional sports run, you’ll be happy you remained dedicated to your education.
Allow for some “me” time and a social life.
With emphasis placed on a successful academic record and improvement in your sport, it is okay—in fact, it’s essential—to take a little time for yourself to rest and recharge. College should be a fun experience. Give yourself permission to have a social life. Hang out with your friends and enjoy this new phase you’re in. Just remember to keep everything in moderation.