Life as a Student-Athlete
PHHS '17, Rutgers University '21
A student-athlete’s college experience is unique to that of any other college student. There are responsibilities like weight training, practice, road trips, study hall, and much more all on top of being a full-time student. I will give you a bit of my experience as well as the advice I would give any college student-athlete, including by younger brother. This advice will not be to “work hard” or “stay determined” – you know that already. I am providing, real, honest, first-hand knowledge in this area.
If you ever scroll through the Twitter page of a college coach, you will likely see a tweet saying how demanding the athletes schedule is and how “this isn’t for everyone.” While this may have some truth, it is not always the case. Here are two examples of days I can have in/out of season.
7:30-9:00- weight room
2:00-3:30- team/individual meetings
7:30- 8:30- study hall/homework(mandatory time from the team. ~6 hours a week)
10:00- in bed
Out of Season
6:30- wake up/breakfast
These are two extremes, but the point is not every day is as difficult as what people make it out to be. Now, as I said before, I will give you the three most important things to optimize your time as a student-athlete.
The first, and most important, is sleep, which goes hand in hand with managing your time. While this may seem simple, it will be the largest determining factor in your productivity the following day. The average non-student athlete can schedule classes as late in the day as they want to avoid waking up early. This is not the case with a student-athlete. In order to get everything done in a day, you will almost always need to be up before 8:00 AM. This then puts pressure on your sleep schedule, as everyone knows hard it can be to go to bed when the rest of your friends are up and about. In order for your body to function at a full capacity, which you will need to perform, you need a good night's sleep. One of the main reasons for college students staying up is to do homework or study for exams. This puts pressure on your time management skills. Make sure to take care of your business during the day so you can sleep at night.
The next item I would like to address is communication. This is communication with coaches, professors, family, friends, and health staff on campus. Getting adjusted to this schedule and the demands as a college student are hard as a 17 or 18-year-old kid. Everybody around you realizes this and is willing to help you. Professors understand the responsibilities that you have and are often willing to lend a hand. In my experience, professors have scheduled additional office hours (time to meet privately with the teacher), provided additional resources to study with, or even extended due dates by a day or two. As I mentioned, this time can be tough for a young student-athlete, and often taxing on your mental health. College freshman are thrown into an unfamiliar environment with little to no instruction on how to properly function. On top of this, you are expected to perform at your best athletically day in and day out. There is a stigma that you are “weak” if you struggle with mental health issues, but these are more common than you think! Use the on-campus resources, talk to professionals, and make sure you are as healthy mentally, as you are physically.
Finally, one of the most important resources you will have in college will be your alumni. The people who played your sport at your school are always willing to offer any advice, whether it be personally, career-wise, or athletically. These people know what it is like to face the challenges you face all the time and they are willing to help you out. They are also very helpful when it comes to life after sports, or when you are looking for employment. I know this seems a ways away, but it couldn’t hurt to get to know people now.
These 4-5 years are some of the most memorable in your life. While the life of a student-athlete is a lot of work, the relationships and memories you develop are more than worth it. You can only be an athlete for so long, so make the most of it!