The Struggle is REAL
As a student athlete, you likely struggle with gaining control of and managing your hectic schedule. Conditioning, practices, team meetings, and games all take up significant portions of your days and weeks. Additionally, your academic load can feel overwhelming at times. With all of these responsibilities, it can be nearly impossible to find time to participate in the fun parts of college, such as sorority/fraternity life, clubs, and social activities. Are you the master of your schedule or is it the master of you?
Burkeman (2021) suggests that you take a time-limiting attitude, which means “organizing your days with the understanding that you definitely won’t have time for everything that you want to do, or that other people want you to do – and so, at the very least, you can stop beating yourself up for failing” (p. 32). Even if you accept that there is a limited amount of time to accomplish a great number of things, how can you avoid feeling like you’re always playing catch up?
Why Do I Feel This Way?
Before you started college, you may have had expectations as to what your life would look like: study sessions with friends, tailgates and sporting events in the stadium, sorority/fraternity parties, making new friends, joining social clubs, and even volunteering for some good causes. It can be extremely hard to accept that, because you are an athlete, you will have to make some really tough choices by saying “no” to a number of things to which you’d really like to say “yes” and simply can’t, because there are only 24 hours in each day.
Accept that as a student athlete, there are events and experiences that you will miss out on. Resist the urge to say “yes” to too many extra activities. It will enable you to make better choices about the things you really DO want to participate in and allow you to fully enjoy the smaller number of things that you’re actually doing (Burkeman, 2021).
Keep in mind that you are human, which means that you need to accept that you can’t consistently devote 100% of your time and energy to everything on your plate; you will get burned out if you try to do this! If you fall short in an area, try to be gentle with yourself. Reflect on what you might be able to change or improve upon and move on.
6 Tips for Managing Time As A Student Athlete
If you are struggling with time management as an athlete, consider the following tips.
1. Use a Calendar or Planner to Track All of Your Commitments:
All college students have the difficult responsibility of keeping track of when course assignments are due and when tests are coming up. As a student athlete, you have the added stressor of managing practice and competition schedules as well. Set aside a designated time each day to work on academics to help create a boundary between your academics and sport responsibilities.
2. Prioritize Your Tasks
At the beginning of each week, take a look at your schedule for the next two weeks. Plan schoolwork around training, not your sports schedule around academics; prioritize activities in their order of importance and due dates. If you have a mid-term next Monday and know that you will be out all weekend for a competition in another state, start studying earlier than you typically would, so that mentally, you have enough energy and brain power to tackle each task – the competition and the mid-term – with the same level of hard work and commitment.
3. Communicate With Your Professors:
Make your professors aware, through face-to-face meetings (when possible) and emails, what your team time commitment looks like, when you will be out of town for away matches, and if you are having a difficult time meeting course deadlines. Most professors are truly invested in your success – many were college athletes themselves – and they want to assist you in any way they can.
4. Break Assignments into Manageable Pieces:
Are you putting off an assignment or workout because of a fear of failure? Is it too challenging? Whatever the reason, break up large assignments or tasks into smaller ones. This will help to create some momentum toward completion.
Try focusing on one large project at a time, rather than starting five assignments and leaving each in varying degrees of completion. Procrastination has an ugly side effect – it can amp up your anxiety once you realize that you don’t have enough time. Avoid the unnecessary anxiety, and push through the hard stuff.
5. Be Intentional About Your Use of Devices
If you have a paper to type, only give yourself access to the software on your laptop that you need to complete the task, such as Microsoft Word. If you need to use an internet browser for research, make sure that you are logged out of all your social media and instant streaming accounts before you sit down to write. Additionally, keep your phone on “do not disturb” mode and out of your reach.
Giving yourself access to distractions like Facebook, TikTok, and Netflix leads to procrastination and missed deadlines. If you find yourself endlessly scrolling through your social media feeds or on your fifth consecutive episode of Friends, ask yourself, “Is this the most effective use of my time right now?”
6. Attend to Your Physical Needs:
Are you guilty of justifying that it’s okay to get a minimal amount of sleep at night and spend your days feeling exhausted, just to fit everything in? Or only eating one meal a day, because that’s what you’re willing to make time for, and as a result, have trouble focusing, because your body doesn’t have enough fuel? No sleep and poor diet can and will affect both your athletic and academic performance AND increase your risk of injury (Huebner, 2022). The healthier you are, the better your focus, training, and performance will be, so don’t ignore your physical health needs.
There are certain aspects about college life that you can’t control (classes, assignments, practice/game schedules, etc.), so it’s important to identify areas in which you DO have control. Simple changes can lead to an improvement in your performance, in all areas of life.
Barden, D. (2021, July 15). The best time management tips for student athletes. Xtreme Sports. https://www.xtremespots.com/news/the-best-time-management-tips-for-student-athletes/
Burkeman, O. (2021). Four thousand weeks: Time management for mortals. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Huebner, J. (2022, April 11). Considerations for athletes in counseling. Counseling Today. https://ct.counseling.org/2022/04/considerations-for-athletes-in-counseling/
NCAA. (n.d.). Balance your schedule. https://www.ncaa.org/sports/2021/7/9/balance-your-schedule.aspx