Balancing athletics and academics

Going to college is challenging. But going to college AND playing a college sport can be twice as challenging.

So how do students do it?

I sat down with Sydney Peitz to talk about her experience playing competitive volleyball and going to the NAIA National Tournament for the first time, to find out how she plans on surviving the rigors of being a college athlete with both high academic and athletic demands.

Staring at a textbook can get awfully exhausting, and being part of a sports team can offer you a much needed break to work out, wake up, and then get back to it. On the other hand, doing well academically can help you to be more focused as part of a team.

Here are 6 tips she used to successfully balance athletics & academics as a college athlete.

1. Communicate

Make sure professors know that you are an athlete and that although you put academics first, you may have athletic commitments (road trips, etc.) that interfere with a class. Let them know your schedule ahead of time so you can make a plan for any possible conflicts well in advance.

Also, communicate with coaches in the same way. Some courses require labs or out of class meetings that may conflict with a practice. Let coaches know ahead of time to see if there is a way to work it out. Along the same lines, make sure you have someone else in the class whom you can count on to provide notes or other work that you may miss due to an unavoidable conflict.

2. Dedicate certain times of each day to academics

You can’t control your athletic schedule and once you choose classes you can’t control the days/times that you are required to be there. However, you can control every minute of your “free” time.

Don’t go in with the mindset that you’ll “get it done later” because most of the time something else will come up that gets in the way. If you prioritize your school work ahead of time, i.e. 6–8 pm is devoted to academics, and you stick to that schedule, you will be amazed at how productive you can be.

3. Look out for yourself

It doesn’t matter what other students are doing around you, be mature enough to know what you need to do to succeed. You may not be able to blow off a reading assignment or hang out socially on a given night like others. Make sure you focus on your own academic success and what you need to do to accomplish your goals.

4. Form study groups with other student athletes

Accept the fact that you do not have nearly as much free time as non student-athletes to complete your academic work. Talk to teammates or even student-athletes from other sports teams, especially if you are in the same courses, and plan times that you can meet up and work together. I found it very helpful to just get together in one of the halls, dorm rooms, etc. with people who were in a similar position and commit to getting work done on certain days at certain times.

5. Plan ahead

When your professors provide a syllabus for your class, sit down and compare that to your athletic schedule to see if there are any glaring conflicts.

Utilize bus trips to get work done instead of just watching movies or sleeping.

For example, if a big project is due or an exam is scheduled for the day before or after a big game, especially if it is a road game, make sure you plan accordingly to prepare yourself.

6. Schedule classes that fit your athletic schedule

If you know you typically have practice from 4–6 pm, don’t try to take a class that meets around that time of day unless you absolutely have to — it will just end up causing undue stress. Figure out the best times of day for your classes and do your best to fit them into those time slots.

Just remember to let loose and have fun with your teammates once in awhile, and remember to make time for those naps!

The most important thing to remember is that if you were already able to successfully juggle high school athletics and academics then a lot of the same principles still apply in college.

You can do it!