How to Balance Sports and Studies as a Student-Athlete

As if heading to college for the first time isn’t enough pressure, some students are also anticipating playing a sport. According to the NCAA, approximately 480,000 of the nearly 8 million graduating high school athletes will go on to compete in college.

Safe to say, making a college athletic team is quite an accomplishment! And the good news is, as a student-athlete, you’re more likely to graduate than your peers. However, to make it to your college graduation, you’ve got to keep your grades up and find the time to study.

Time management will be crucial to your success. You’ll be juggling hours of practice, games, and travel on top of your academic responsibilities. To help you manage a complicated schedule, here are some tips for organizing your time as a student-athlete.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Whether or not you want to go pro, academics should be your No. 1 priority in college. Even if your goal is to be a professional athlete, life can change your plans faster than you think.

Many college athletes don’t actually plan on playing after college. Most go on to become doctors, lawyers, scientists or any other job you can imagine. It’s important to think about what you want to do after graduation and work toward that. Be sure to meet with your advisor to discuss any concerns and make sure you’re on track to graduate on time.

And if your goal is to be a professional player? Remember, student-athletes have to maintain a certain GPA to keep playing. If you don’t want to lose your spot on the team—thereby jeopardizing your chance at getting noticed—focus on your studies.

Prioritize What’s Important

Because you’re adding in a demanding activity on top of your course load, you may have to sacrifice some other things you want to do. That might mean skipping out on a social event with friends in exchange for practice or an away game.

If you plan your schedule in advance (like when you get your course syllabi and practice/game schedules), you can organize weekends with friends without worrying about other obligations. It’s important to enjoy your free time to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Planning ahead is key.

Study Wisely

You don’t want to exhaust yourself by spending all your time either in class or at practice. If you study smart and use your time wisely, you can successfully balance academics, athletics, and social events.

Find a study spot free from distractions and, if you need the extra support, study with classmates, friends, or teammates. You can all encourage each other to stay focused, since focused studying means efficient studying. The more efficient your study habits are, the less time you’ll spend in the library; allowing you more time to relax, de-stress, and do the things you enjoy.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Don’t forget that your coaches are there to support you. If you ever feel overwhelmed with exams, projects, or homework, talk to your coach. They understand academics are your first priority, so if you have an important exam coming up, they might be OK with you missing practice to study. Your professors may also be accommodating to your schedule, if you talk to them in advance. Don’t be afraid to ask for that extra support if you need it.

As a student-athlete, finding the balance between studies, sports, and a social life can be challenging, but not impossible. Remember to focus on your academics and long-term goals, and create a schedule that allows you to balance all aspects of the college experience.