Starting college as a freshman can best be described as a rollercoaster. You’re getting used to a new environment, new people, a new type of learning, a new schedule, and most important of all, being on your own. In addition to all of these, being a student-athlete is not only an additional time-consuming responsibility but a physically draining one as well. I’m currently on Mount Holyoke’s Track and Field team. It has definitely been a bit of a struggle to juggle my academics, extracurriculars, and the sport. I’m about a month in and these are a few tips that have been very helpful in navigating my college journey as a student-athlete.
- Manage your time wisely
This is similar to how you have to do independent work before and after classes. The same idea applies as a student-athlete: you need to keep up with your stretches, water intake, 7-9 hours of sleep, and healthy food intake. Pulling all-nighters is a big no-no, especially when you have to wake up at 5 am for practice like me.
- Prioritize your goals
Student-athletes are often competitive by nature so it’s expected that they want to excel at both academics and the sport. To accomplish this, it is important to keep your goals in place. The name “student-athlete” even has the student part come first, so always remember to prioritize your academics over your sport. Being at a school like Mount Holyoke is very beneficial for keeping this tip in check because the coaches also prioritize your academics and countlessly remind us to be proactive in homework and classes. Also, as a Mount Holyoke student, your grades have to be at a certain level to keep you eligible for the sport, so if you slip up you will be losing in two parts of your life.
- Be vocal
If you’re feeling pain, say it. If you’re stressed about an exam and you can’t make it to practice, say it. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it. Pushing through pain is overrated, especially as an athlete. Some injuries when left without care can put you out of the sport forever. So please speak up and express your pain. Your coaches want you to be healthy, focused, and most importantly, having fun. It’s impossible to be on top of your game when thoughts are swirling around in your head. This leaves you stressed about homework and worse, you start developing a hatred for your sport.
- Complain, Yell, Scream
Please don’t keep your emotions bottled up. Or listen to people who advise you to be “optimistic” all the time. We’re human beings and things can get very ugly when emotions aren’t dealt with appropriately. Suppression is a myth. It’s going to come back up and you definitely won’t like it or be prepared when it does. Mount Holyoke offers Drop-in Talking, which allows students to talk to licensed counselors about any issues. I make it a habit to go at least once a week for the sake of my mental health and it has been really helpful.
- Be Smart
I’m not going to say don’t drink or smoke, but if you’re in college, you should be at least moderately aware of the disadvantages of these activities, especially as an athlete. It is college and first years love to try new things, so make your own decisions on that. I will say to stay away from accident-prone activities like letting your drunk friend drive a car or doing a dare to shoplift jewelry from a store with your friends (I must confess I got these examples from TV shows, but you get my drift).
- Take some time off from academics and being an athlete
Try to hang out with friends who aren’t athletes, go to movies, take that trip to a different state with some friends. College is a time to fool around and explore your true self.
Being a student-athlete is a very difficult task, but it is also very manageable. It’s very enjoyable to participate in a sport you love and even more enjoyable when you win and make good memories with your teammates. You get to have a mini-family on campus with your sports team that doubles as an amazing support system. Channel that competitive spirit into your academics and sport and it will all be worth it in the end.
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