HOW TO SUCCEED AT COLLEGE BOTH ATHLETICALLY AND ACADEMICALLY
COLLEGE GAME-PLAN AND TIME MANAGEMENT
When you go to college as an athlete there will be a lot of demands on your time, much more than there ever was at high school.
In their sport, athletes spend 15-20 hours practicing and training, and during the season, many sports require considerable travel time causing missed classes. Academically, students spend 12-15 hours in class each week, not including studying time. Sounds like a full-time job doesn’t it? And obviously most students also want to socialize and have a good time too, so succeeding academically and athletically can be quite a challenge. Fortunately, most student-athletes don’t shy away from challenges and they will conquer this transition in due time. But, how long will it take?
Much of the timeline success depends on the degree to which you are prepared to meet the demands on the field and in the classroom. Your performance will be determined by a combination of your ability to handle stress (coping skills) and your ability to stay organized. So, what’s your game-plan?
Don’t worry too much if you are not very organized or if you get stressed easily right now. Most college students are not highly skilled in these areas, but you can learn these skills with some consistent effort. Just like you would prepare rigorously for a big game or difficult opponent, successful student-athletes typically follow a few simple rules in designing their game-plan for each semester.
Establish a consistent time to study on most days of the week. Successful students don’t study only when they have exams. In college, it is very important to stay on top of your class readings, because once your get behind it may be very difficult to catch up. Since your free time will be limited, it might be useful to get a planner or calendar and make a note of the consistent free times in your week. Make sure you are realistic when setting up this “regular study appointment” because you want to be able to follow through. For example, you are probably free 6-8:00am, but are you really going to get up and study during that time?
One to two hours each day is usually more than enough to stay on top of readings and homework assignments and if you are disciplined during the week, you may be free all weekend! The difficult part of this rule is staying consistent even when you don’t have exams or a lot of reading. Procrastination is practiced by many students, and some would even claim they are better “under pressure.” While this may be true occasionally, it often leaves students very tired and fatigue, which is not a good condition to be in for a student-athlete. Students sleep in or take naps in the afternoon; student-athletes go to practice.
Plan for difficult times of the semester. When you are getting started each semester, sit down and look over your sport training and competition schedule and your course outlines. Map out when you have quizzes, tests, or projects due (making note of the heaviest weeks) and when you will be missing class due to travel. Midterms, for example, are often difficult periods because most athletes are in-season and most of your classes will have exams in the same one or two week period. Always contact your professors in advance to see what you might miss or to re-schedule quizzes or exams. Professors are usually most flexible when you contact them ahead of time, and they will appreciate your effort.
Create weekly “to-do” lists. Every athlete is familiar with goal setting and has used this strategy to enhance motivation at one time or another. The easiest way to get started on your game-plan is to sit down each Sunday for a few minutes and look over what you need to accomplish for your sport and classes each week. You might even want to plan two weeks ahead in your schedule in order to avoid a surprise exam, paper or presentation that is due on a Monday. If you already created a semester calendar, this is the time to note any updates to your schedule including anything that is due that week or any readings you have for class. You may also want to write down goals for your sport training to keep you focused each week. Sometimes, student-athletes can get overwhelmed looking at an entire semester of work, because we really live one day at a time. Getting into the rhythm of being consistent each week helps you manage your stress level and feel less overwhelmed with the whole experience. Consequently, you may even enjoy it!
Summary: If you follow these rules, not only will you begin to establish very consistent study habits, you will be less distracted during competitions. If you handle your academic “business” properly, you won’t be excessively worried about that Chemistry midterm or about an English paper that’s due next week. Putting effort in advance in developing your game-plan will help you manage the academic part of the equation with less effort, thus freeing up energy to devote to your sport. Without a work ethic and the discipline to be consistent, your natural talent will only get you so far. This principle is true for sports, school, and life; student athletes who commit to a game-plan each semester will be prepared for the challenges ahead and be more likely to reach their goals in the classroom and on the playing field.
If you aren’t very skilled in this area yet, visit with your academic advisor or one of your favorite teachers to see if they can help you get started.