Wake up, go to class, eat, go to practice, lift, shower, do homework, repeat. A cycle that seems never-ending yet is a harsh reality of little free time and exhaustion for most student-athletes. Collegiate athletics not only presents students with the challenge of balancing academics and a sport, but with their social lives, mental health, and family connections as well. With all these things going on, the self-induced pressure that student-athletes put on themselves will allow them to either perform at their best or their worst. Inside the balancing act of collegiate athletics is a whole lot of stress, hard work, and expectations.
The stress of college alone is a lot to take on, adding a sport is simply the cherry on top. From the second they wake up to the moment they go to bed, there’s not an hour that goes by where they’re not in class, at practice, eating, or doing homework. Time management is essential in order to achieve good grades. With track meets every weekend and riding on a bus for 10 hours, there and back, homework is only an option during the week. When the team finally gets back it’s around midnight on Sunday and their next class on Monday morning is only 8 hours away. And by the time class rolls around, they’re exhausted from the weekend, but that won’t excuse them from their 8 AM Monday through Friday. Attempting to stay up to date with all their work and repeat the same thing for the upcoming week. Stress-free is the goal, however, is yet to be maintained.
Working hard is expected in the classroom and during practice at all times. From 8 AM to 1:30 PM efforts are expected to be put into my schoolwork. But from 2:30 to 5:30 PM, efforts are expected to be in their running, lifting, and attitude. Whether it’s grade checks or performance meetings, they put the hard work in, and let the rest (grades and times) come to them. Hard work in the classroom can be through paying attention during classes, staying up all night to finish their paper due the next day, or doing just a little extra studying for the exam they have the next morning. During practice, hard work typically consists of paying attention to what they’re doing during drills, hitting their time/miles in workouts, and doing the little things like core and stretching. Day to day, one thing after another, but nothing less than your best effort is expected.
Stress and hard work bring us to the final topic, expectations. This could be expectations from the athlete themselves, coaches, friends, teachers, or family. All expectations they want to live up to but have a hard time balancing it all. So many people to please and so little time to do so. With expectations set high, athletes complete what they can and give their best effort to accomplish the rest. They know it won’t be the end of the world if they fail to complete what is expected of them, but they want to continue to better their selves.
These three aspects of college are major pieces, but not the whole puzzle to the collegiate athlete experience. The stress, hard work, and expectations of being a college athlete push them to become their best self but can also leave them drained and depleted at times. The balancing act of college athletics can get tricky at times, but I try my best to keep it going.