Article Written By Annie Deloid, Head Volleyball Coach At Union College
Top Time Management Tips For Student-Athletes and Aspiring College Athletes
A few years ago, I was sitting in on one of my first recruit visits as a collegiate coach. I was coaching under a very experienced head coach and remember learning so many invaluable concepts, ideas, and phrases from him during my time. This one particular discussion he had with a student-athlete on strong time management skills was one I will never forget.
The student-athlete asked a seemingly simple question: “How do your student-athletes balance academics and athletics?” Of course, every institution is different. Every student-athlete’s mind works differently. Every student-athlete has a different course load that can vary semester to semester. However, what my head coach said to the student-athlete was: “Everyone in the world has the same amount of hours in a day. They just might look different as a collegiate student-athlete.”
This response got my wheels turning. High school tends to have pretty standard hours. As a student-athlete at high school level, you are most likely in school from 7 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon. You probably have high school practice from 3:30-5:30. Then, you head home, have dinner and start your homework. At collegiate level, it can look less structured. You may have no class on Mondays until 11am, then you may grab some lunch, have another class from 1-2:30pm, eat dinner around 5:00, and practice from 6-8pm. Do you see hours in there where you could be productive and get work done?
Here are my top five time management skills that can make you an effective student-athlete and manage your time. These are a few tactics and ideas that have worked well for both myself and the student-athletes that I have coached:
Take Advantage of Your Off Days
Seasons are long, so your body and mind need a reset! This may be spending your morning taking a nice walk, or waking up and getting stuck in to work straight away. Just don’t forget, it’s hard to stay on top of things if you are mentally and physically exhausted. Fill up your cup!
Understand The Resources Your Institution Provides
Take some time to fully research and understand what resources are available within your institution. This may include your professors' office hours, going to the writing center, making an appointment with a tutor, checking out different study spaces in the library, and much more. The more familiar with it you feel, the more set up for success you will be.
Be Proactive In Sorting Out Any Schedules and Conflicts
Don’t forget that most classes will give you a syllabus on the first day. Coaches will also provide schedules for both practices and games very early on in the preseason. There should be no surprises when it comes to potential conflicts. Be proactive with professors and let them know if you may have to leave a class early on a specific day because you will be traveling with your team. Also be sure to ask if there is anything important you will be missing and if you can meet with them to catch yourself up.
I always have my athletes email all of their professors prior to the first day of class to let them know that they will be on their course, and that they are a member of a sports team. Professors will appreciate communication and professionalism. This is key when it comes how to balance athletics and academics.
Understand How You Study Best, and Don’t Stray Away From That!
Something I learned myself in college is that everyone studies differently. I tried to force myself, time and time again, to sit in a room with all of my teammates and get my assignment done. My mind was easily distracted and I would end up wasting hours of my day doing practically nothing. I needed to sit in my room, with no noise, and get my work finished. It’s actually funny to look back on, since I am still very similar to this day! Don’t force yourself to study a particular way because everyone else is. This will only slow you down and waste your time. Find what works best for you and stick to it!
Take Everything One Task At a Time
As someone who is trying to do a lot at once (adjust to college, adjust to a new team, prioritize mental, physical, emotional health, etc), things can get overwhelming. Try your best to prioritize what needs to get done as soon as possible and go from there. I like to create a checklist of items that cannot wait, and another checklist of items that need to be done soon. It helps me see that sometimes I am working on the big picture project when I really need to be focused on the small picture project. This tactic tends to help a lot when I have multiple tasks coming at me at once.
Here is an example. If you find out that you have an essay due in two weeks, a test on Wednesday and a quiz on Friday, how will you prioritize? Your test probably hails as the most important, followed by the quiz, and then the essay. However, in order to not get overwhelmed in a week (when other items will be sure to pop up as well), make sure you are slowly chipping away at your other tasks. This brings us back to the first point — take advantage of those off days!
There are so many things I wish I could go back and do differently as a student-athlete, and time management is certainly one of them. I wish someone had told me to take advantage of what my university had to offer, and the resources at my disposal.
On a final note, it will help to be honest about your time with your team. You should always feel like you can let your coach know when you are stressed, or going through a hard time academically. It means we can understand each other better and gives us a clear line of communication. And the same goes for talking to the rest of your teammates. You have a built-in community as a collegiate student-athlete just by being part of a team — and everyone around you is rooting for your success.
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