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Student athletes or athletic students

By Danika Good
On February 3, 2015

I think that we can all agree that there are a lot of ups and downs attending a small college. We have endless opportunities to get involved in sports, theater, music, clubs, on-campus activities, and more, which is great.

The down side is finding a way to balance all of these activities on top of school. How do we manage everything when we have more homework than our schedules will allow?

I want to start with the disclaimer that I am in no way trying to talk bad about any of the coaches, teachers, or teams here on campus; I simply want to express the feelings of many of the students on our campus and give you all some pointers to help you manage your busy schedules.

My experience as a tennis player is a little different than some of the other sports. Since we don’t have our own practice facilities, we are always stuck practicing at crazy times: between sharing outdoor courts with the high school teams and community members, sharing the Mabee Center with other teams, traveling to Lawrence to use the Jayhawk Center, and sharing the Hull Center with every other team on campus, it is sometimes impossible to find a practice time that works for everyone.

We often find ourselves missing practice, missing other activities, or losing precious hours of sleep just to get everything in.

The women’s tennis team has 25 matches in 13 weeks of this semester. Softball and baseball have about 27 game days in 11 weeks and most of those are double or triple-headers. Track has 22 meets throughout the semester. Golf has seven tournaments each lasting two or three days, and every other sport has hectic schedules as well.

That is nearly every weekend of the semester for many of us, and once conference starts we could be competing three to four times per week. I’m sorry, but what? Do we pay over $30,000 per year to play a sport or to get an education?

Late night practices, early morning workouts and time in the training room are all part of what it takes to succeed in our sports, but when it cuts into our class, homework, and sleep time, it's hard to keep up with it all.

It has reached the point where many of us feel like we have to change our homework habits to keep up with our sports when we should be adjusting our sports schedules to help us succeed in academics.

It doesn’t help that half of our teachers seem to forget that we have other classes besides theirs. I have heard several people talk about their ridiculous homework load this year.

You know it’s serious when you are forced to decide which homework will affect your grade the least because you just don’t have time to do it all.

I really don’t like when people say that we “chose this life” and we “wanted to be student athletes so we should not complain.”

Yes, you are right. I did choose to be a student athlete because I love the sport that I play. I was also in serious need of some scholarship money because I knew that I wanted to be at a small school, which is typically more expensive.

So, please don’t tell me to stop complaining until you try to play a sport for a minimum of 12 hours a week, take 16 credit hours, be the president of a sorority, be a member of Campus Activities Board and Public Relations Student Society of America, work two jobs, participate in resume builders, and find time for homework, eating, sleeping, socializing, and visiting family, and succeed without any mental breakdowns.

We are young adults. College is supposed to be some of the best years of our lives and we are supposed to be enjoying ourselves, but sometimes it feels like we don’t even have time to consider enjoying our lives.

So here are some tips from Athlete Connections and me that can help you attempt to get your life together.

  1. Talk to your teachers and coaches. Many of them are understanding and know the struggle of being a student athlete. They will likely work with you if you are just feeling too overwhelmed to accomplish everything.
  2. Make the most of your time. As tempting as it is to check the latest Twitter updates or just turn on a movie and relax, procrastinating your to-do list will only make it longer.
  3. Use travel time. I am the worst about this. I have lost count of how many times I take homework with me to away trips with every intention of getting some work done in the car, and then never touched it. But even just an hour or two in the car is the perfect time to catch up on some reading.
  4. Use a planner. Write down everything that is due when it is due. No one likes that person who is constantly asking what the assignments are because they don’t write it down, and missing them can seriously hurt your grade.
  5. Know your limits. I am the queen of overbooking myself. Even if you think you really can do everything, I promise you can’t. Everyone has a limit, so you just need to know where yours is to help keep your sanity.

Of course we can’t change our classes. We can’t change our practice schedules. We can’t change the amount of homework that is assigned. We can’t change the fact that our campus has more teams and students than our practice facilities can manage effectively. What we can change is how we deal with it all.

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