There is the student who arrives before the bell and leaves the second the clock hits three o’clock. But then there is the student athlete. Student athletes spend hours before and after school, grinding it out on the court, the field, or the pool. Whether you’re on JV or varsity, being a student athlete is a whole new level of mental gymnastics and toughness.
In high school, being on a team can be a huge part of your life. And, as much as we like to say “leave it on the field,” athletics can easily take over the rest of your world. Not only are you balancing your academics, extracurriculars, and social life but you’re also taking on the responsibility of being a teamplayer.
Just like there is a lot of training that goes into building an athlete, there are a lot of steps that go into building a healthy school-sports balance. Here are some important steps you need to know:
1. First things first: Take care of your body.
Sure, we all know about the sacrifices that come with being an athlete, but the old adage is simply not true: Pain is not gain. Remember, you can’t be a good student nor a good athlete if you’ve overworked yourself to the point of injury. You don’t want to be stuck watching your teammates from the sidelines or having to pile up homework for later because of a concussion.
2. Play hard, plan smart.
Get prepared! Know ahead of time, at the start of the semester, when your big exams, essays, tournaments, and meets are going to be. Jot them down in a planner and check to see if there is any overlap so you know what weeks you can start preparing.
If you have a huge sports event the same weekend as a midterm, teachers may be more lenient if you ask to reschedule a test at the start of the semester rather than the week before.
3. Don’t go out of bound.
It’s easy to want to do everything—tournaments, after practice hangouts, team dinners, etc. After all, we join a team because we love the sport and the people are a huge part of that. But you have to set boundaries and stick to them.
Got that homework assignment due tomorrow but your teammates want to grab dinner after practice? Team bonding is going to need a raincheck. A big tournament this weekend and an essay due Wednesday? Focus on the tournament now, and then make sure to put aside that extra time on Monday and Tuesday for the essay.
The most important part is that you should still be having fun. Your athletics should never get to the point of pain or injury to yourself. Any good coach and teacher will remind you that being a student is your first priority, but they’re not entirely correct. Take care of yourself, and don’t forget that before academics or athletes—your health, mental and physical, is your first priority.