Student athletes across the county, state and country all share a common struggle: managing their time between school work and practices.
On the outside, the life of a student athlete doesn’t seem too difficult; go to school, go to practice and then go home to do homework. What others fail to realize, however, is that there is much more behind the scenes.
Going to school and practice is only part of it. Students today are pressured into meeting and exceeding the expectations of colleges by becoming the “well-rounded” student. What does that mean exactly? Colleges expect their applicants to not only earn good grades in school but be a part of at least one, if not multiple, sports, along with club memberships, volunteering around the community and more.
So, with all these extracurriculars, how do student athletes feel about managing their time and finding a balance between school, practice, clubs and occasionally jobs?
“Choosing to play a sport is a decision you make knowing full well that your schedule is going to be harder to manage than most other students. I don’t think that being a student athlete is an excuse to fall behind in school or not work as hard on academics. It’s stressful at times but ultimately rewarding,” said Jordan Mareno, senior and student athlete. Mareno has not only participated in both cross country and soccer at Leesville all four years of high school, but she is a member of various clubs.
Some student athletes have jobs on top of their seven hours of school and two hours of practices each day, leaving them with almost no time for homework, studying and sleeping. Is there so much pressure for them to participate in so many extracurriculars that, at times, it affects not only their grades but their health too?
“There is definitely pressure from parents and colleges for students to pile on extracurricular activities. Colleges say they want students who are well-rounded which basically means a sleep-deprived athlete who is smart, artsy and volunteers,” said Kirsten Smothers, senior. Smothers has participated in gymnastics at Leesville since her freshman year along with working 10 hours per week at her job as a gymnastics instructor.
With all the pressure of meeting the “well-rounded student” requirements, the student is often overwhelmed when their performance in school, practice or work begins to decrease. Often times, student athletes may feel that their teachers and coaches aren’t mindful of the fact that they have activities outside of just school or practice; there are, however, ways to avoid insufficiency or miscommunication.
“Teachers and coaches can help student athletes by laying out more long-term schedules. If teachers notify students of big due dates far enough ahead of time, kids will be able to get their work done around their other activities. Same goes for coaches — if they let their athletes know when an exhausting workout is going to take place, the kids can try to finish up any work they may have that day early,” suggested Mareno.
It may be difficult for first-time student athletes to figure it all out, but keep in mind that all other student athletes are going through the same thing. Upperclassmen that have experience with managing and balancing school and practices are always a good source of advice.
“Stay focused on your school[work]. [This] happens to a lot of kids: they don’t focus on homework and they go to practice and go home and sleep. Student is first — it’s student athlete. You have to be the student first and be very diligent in your schoolwork,” said Spencer Eason-Riddle, senior and student-athlete.
Being a student athlete is a big commitment and learning how to balance time is part of the job. Although it may take time to adjust, learning how to manage both school and practice is vital to a student athlete’s survival.