By Harrison Fox
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
Student-athletes are among the most hard-working students on any campus in the country. They work with hectic schedules throughout the academic year, from keeping up with their work in the classroom to attending practices and competitions. Athletes are left with very little time for other hobbies or an active social life.
This article aims to identify some of the most challenging circumstances current student-athletes deal with in their day to day, as well as including key tips and information obtained from Niagara University students. The aim is providing new or future student-athletes with relevant information on what to expect going into college, and the best ways to handle the heavy workload and limited social calendar.
Maintaining Your Eligibility
If you are an athlete attending a college, which is a part of associations such as the NCAA, NJCAA or NAIA, there are certain requirements you must maintain to remain eligible in your sport. Athletes are required to take a certain amount of credit hours by the end of each academic year, as well as having to obtain a specific GPA at the end of each year, to maintain eligibility. The required credit hours correspond with the standard amount of credit hours needed to be enrolled as a full-time student, which is 12 credit hours per semester, as full-time enrolment is a requirement for NCAA eligibility.
Whilst you should receive full support from your NCAA compliance office to maintain your eligibility, this is useful information to ensure you don’t miss out on any of your season when you get to college.
Your Guide to Success
This article promised you relevant information on how to be successful academically and athletically during your four years at college. Leaving high school, you have probably been bombarded with advice from all types of people who may not understand the pressure that comes with being a student-athlete.
All tips provided in this article come from straight from either current senior student-athletes or past athletes who have gone on to obtain jobs in prestigious fields.
You can be sure you are getting the best advice available to you.
•Goal-Setting is Key
Who knew all those times your coach told you to set goals for the season, they were actually talking sense? Goals are a great way to set specific, realistic targets you aim to achieve, both in your sport and in the classroom. Having athletic and academic goals will help you maintain your focus throughout the season.
Current senior and men's swim team captain Edgar Melchor explained his goal-setting as a way to “remind myself why I am putting myself through all of this pain and suffering.”
Pretty brutal sounding, but anyone in their final years as a student-athlete will say the goals they set freshmen year act as a light at the end of the tunnel.
•Buy a Planner and Make it Your New Best Friend
When you are mid-semester and have to deal with midterms, on top of assignments, practice and competitions, you’ll thank this article for the next piece of advice: You can’t expect yourself to remember everything, and there's nothing worse than showing up to class to see a quiz sitting on your desk. Be sure to fill out a planner with all quiz and assignment due dates.
Current basketball captain and Student Athlete Advisement Committee President, Maggie McIntyre says, “I live by my planner. If I don’t write it down, it’s not happening. Every day is so busy going from lift to class to eat to practice and film, workouts, studying and so on. I have to write things down. Even though we’re a generation of electronics, there’s just something about having a written list and crossing things off!”
Mini white boards are a great way for you to keep track of the most important events you have going on during the upcoming week. Buy one to hang on your bedroom wall and fill it out every Sunday. This is a great tool to help maintain your focus and reduce unneeded stress.
•Get to Know Your Professors
This may seem strange at first, but as an athlete you will find your college life a lot easier if you are proactive in attending office hours and seeking help on your work. Professors are there to help students and most will understand the stress athletes find themselves under. If you do the work and prove the effort is there, you have a much better chance of a professor being lenient toward your schedule.
•No Time to Procrastinate.
Procrastination affects almost every student and leaves you cramming in the homework that's due, or studying for a test in the morning. In order to be successful in your academic and athletic pursuits at college, you must erase the word procrastination from your dictionary.
McIntyre says she would tell her freshman self “not to procrastinate! Cramming is tough, especially when you start traveling and you start missing classes.”
Look ahead in your schedule and complete assignments before away meets, instead of being left trying to write a 10-page paper on a Sunday night.
The NCAA and colleges within their association are continuing to dedicate time and resources to providing the best mental health support for their student-athletes. When at college, if you find you are struggling mentally for any reason, make sure to look for and take advantage of the resources on offer to you. From helping you manage your workload to being someone to talk, your athletics department will always be able to provide you with the help you need.
•Make Friends in Your Major
Too often, athletes enter college and only get to know their teammates, leaving them isolated. Being proactive and getting to know people in your major will prove great help in the years to come.
Sarah Webber, women’s swim team captain, says she believes having friends outside of your team to take classes with is hugely beneficial to any student athlete. She says it was helpful to make friends in her major, as “we were able to help each other out when needed. If I missed a class due to a meet, I was able to contact classmates to see what I missed.”
The myth surrounding student-athletes and their inability to do well in the classroom is just that, a myth! It will take hard work and dedication, but with that there is nothing stopping you from excelling in both academics and athletics.
My former teammate, Daniel Ronen, is a past graduate of Niagara University, and currently works for Bank of America in Manhattan – a job he received an offer from whist still a junior. He won the scholar athlete award at Niagara for two consecutive years, an award given to a student-athlete for achievements in both academics and athletics. Ronen credits his success to one simple thing: Staying ahead! He says to “know your schedule, predict your activities (meets, holidays, big exams, etc.) and plan ahead.”
The life of a student-athlete may seem tough, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. You will find yourself stressed, exhausted and left questioning your motivation to take it on, but the help provided in this article will certainly make it easier.
Be focused, organized and willing to adapt to your surroundings – and if I can leave you with anything, it would be this: Stay ahead or you’ll find yourself left behind.