For students and student-athletes alike, college is seen as “some of the best times of your life.” College is a time when students leave the comfort of home and try to navigate the college environment on their own without the aid of parental supervision. Although an exciting time in everyone’s life, it is also riddled with challenges. Trying to figure out where classes are located, adjusting to the expectations of professors, keeping a consistent daily schedule, learning how to balance a social life, all while trying to discover more about yourself. For student-athletes, this process is more challenging because they have the added pressure to perform in their sports. On top of everything I just mentioned, student-athletes must also manage practice schedules, competitions, coaches (and other teammates), and travel schedules, while trying to also be a student.
Unfortunately, these challenges are not easy but if you’ve made it this far in your athletic career, you are used to challenges. As as a former student-athlete myself, I know all too well the challenges and opportunities that await student-athletes as they attempt to deal with the college environment. I will share with you 5 key things every student-athlete should do (or consider) which will help them make the most of and best navigate their campus experience. These topics have arisen from my research on student-athletes and I hope you will find them useful throughout your college experience.
Create A Weekly Schedule (and Keep It Updated)
When I talk to college student-athletes, one of the biggest issues they are trying to figure out early on is how to deal with their time. I constantly hear them saying, “I just don’t have enough time” or “there is not enough time in the day” to accomplish what they want. There is an adjustment period which student-athletes have to learn how to balance everything on their plates. However, we all get the same 24 hours each day and what differentiates the successful from those that not can depend on how they use their time each day.
What can aid in this transition process is using the technology on your smartphone (or email) and use the calendar feature! Simple…right? Take the time each week to put in your daily activities (i.e. meal times, class schedule, practice schedule, weight room session, film study, treatment, and time to study). Once you put these items on your schedule, set your alerts to go off at least 10 minutes before the event. The only thing left to do is adhere to that schedule. Actually seeing what you have to do on a daily basis can help you stay on task and maximize each day. Even adding due dates for assignments can help keep you ahead of the game.
Find time to meet with your instructors
A common misunderstanding exists between faculty members and student-athletes. Faculty members often believe that student-athletes are disinterested in being in their classes or only at the institution to participate in their sports. Student-athletes often believe that faculty members (or graduate instructors) stereotype the student-athletes as being “dumb jocks,” don’t take the time to understand the lives of the student-athletes, generally unwilling to accommodate practice or competition schedules, or the faculty members are envious or dislike the student-athletes.
The best way to break down some of these barriers and misunderstandings is to have face-to-face interactions. Typically, if faculty members see you as a student-athlete that is putting forth the effort in their classes, they are more willing to work with you. Taking time to meet up with faculty members during their office hours (or for lunch/coffee) can be a great way to get to know the faculty member and for them to get to know you. There is always a great benefit in trying to get to know faculty, especially if they are in the field that you want to study.
Find a mentor!
As a student-athlete, you have to acknowledge that you do not know everything and that it’s okay to ask for help. If you accept the fact that everyone needs help, don’t be afraid to seek out a mentor. This mentor can be a faculty member, business professional, a coach, or a community leader. As long as this person is someone that you trust and can receive guidance from, this will make for a good relationship. A mentor can help you with career advice, guidance with difficult situations, networking, and someone to bounce ideas off of.
The fact is that most successful people have or have had a mentor to help guide their path. It’s the same with student-athletes. The goal would be to find someone that you would like to learn from and begin developing a relationship with that person. Make sure to ask this person if they are willing to take you on as a mentee. This requires a time commitment from the mentor as well to continue to invest time in you. Therefore, please make sure to ask. Most people are more than willing to mentor you…if you ask.
Explore Campus (Attend Appealing Campus Events)
As a former student-athlete, one thing that I did not take complete advantage of is attending some of the events happening on campus. Usually, there was a lecture from a world-renowned business leader, civil rights activist or philanthropist and I decided not to go. The common excuse that I used was, “I don’t have the time.” I’d often hear how great the lecture was and wished I would have attended but attending practice was my first priority.
There are great events happening on campus, many times organized by student groups. Whatever your interest, I’m sure there is a student group or organization that has a similar interest. I highly encourage you to step outside of your athletics bubble and explore the events and student groups that campus has to offer. The only time many student-athletes realized that they should have explored the campus offerings to its fullest extent is when they are about to graduate or if they are injured. Don’t wait for either of those two things to happen. Get out and see what’s out there.
Create an Inner Circle
Last but certainly not least, create an inner circle of people that will elevate your game. Your teammates are the group of people that you will probably be around the most often because of similar schedules. However, it is important to recognize that each teammate does not have goals that align with yours. In some cases, you may deal with teammates that just don’t like you or are envious of you for one reason or another. This is why it’s important to surround yourself with people that are going to push you by nature of the levels of success they want to achieve for themselves.
Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” You are determined by who and what you surround yourself with. If you want to be a high achieving person, it makes sense to surround yourself with like-minded people.
Be careful who you hang out with and give your energy to because the sad reality is that everyone is not always excited to see you succeed. Create an inner circle of people that will continue to push you and call you out when you’re slacking. Keep these people around and minimize your time with people affectionately known as…haters! The haters will always show themselves to you but it’s important for you not to ignore those signs. You don’t have to dislike them but ask yourself one question, “Is hanging out them in my best interest?” If the answer is no, be cordially but keep moving along.