Tuesday, August 11, 2009

From Gearfire.net: Balancing School and Sports

NOTE FROM MARIA: This article is here because for some reason the Gearfire.net is down. In any case, if you have any comments or questions just email me at milyusha @ gmail . com - thanks!
Also, a big thank you to the guys over at HackCollege who linked this!

Balancing School and Sports
via GearFire - Tips for Students by Maria on 8/5/09

As we race steadily on to the start of this next school year, it can never hurt to think a little about what our schedule will be like for the next few months. We have to keep track of classes, study sessions, working, social lives, and all sorts of extracurricular activities. One major time commitment is if one plays a sport (or two, or three…).

No matter at what level - intramural, club, or varsity - playing sports can really take up a lot of time. Being an athlete generally takes up considerably more time than exercising or working out to stay in shape.

I have experience with all three of these levels of sports so I’d like to pass along some insights I’ve gained from the past three years. First, here is some background about my experiences. My freshman year of college I played club soccer (I played soccer from age 4 up through my senior year of high school, but I wasn’t interested in playing at the college level). A large group of us got together about 3 times a week to kick around the ball and get some games going. I probably spent an average of 3-7 hours a week playing soccer in the afternoons. Two of the afternoons were on weekdays and one was on Sundays. This lasted for basically all of my first year at school and gave me a great group of people to know right off the bat, plus it was a ton of fun. My sophomore year I went to the first couple of club soccer practices but hardly anyone showed up (the majority of the guys playing had graduated the previous May), and I figured it wasn’t worth my time to keep going if no one was going to play. I switched to the ultimate frisbee team (also considered a club sport at my school) since I had a lot of friends on it and loved that as well. We also had practices 3 times a week, ironically enough at the same time as the club soccer met, and again I was spending around 6-7 hours each week playing frisbee. I was very active on the team for the first semester but by the end of the second semester I was a little burned out on it. So the fall of my junior year I took up tae kwon do. We have a physical education requirement so I figured I would just take TKD (I had spent about 5 years when I was much younger working through many belts) and ended up also joining the club that semester for extra practice. I spent 5 hours in club and 2 hours in class each week, for another total of 7 hours. (I see a trend here!) For spring semester, though, I had decided to take a huge plunge and join the track and field team, a varsity sport. I attend a Division III school so we don’t really have tryouts or cuts for the running program, which is really nice! I absolutely loved it and am looking forward to running cross country this fall. Track and field took up considerably more time - two hour practice every day plus going to meets usually meant about 10-15 hours of practice plus at least a full day or two for each meet.

All right, now that you know all that background information you can understand a bit more where I’m coming from with these tips. They will apply to anyone interested in playing a sport at school, whether it’s from the IM level all the way to varsity.

  • Get stuff done - I can’t stress this enough. If you know you want to spend two hours playing basketball on Wednesday but have homework due Thursday, make sure you get the homework done! Exercise and sports are a great stress reliever but also a great procrastinator. Don’t let your academics slide for sports. If you have a big game or meet over the weekend, make sure you get everything done for Monday so you’re not stressed out Sunday night.
  • Know when to stop or take it easy - If your body hurts, give it a rest. There’s no sense in injuring yourself. If you have too much going on, step back from the athletics and figure out what you want to prioritize.
  • Talk to your coach and/or captain - About anything. They are there to help you out with your athletics and, really, life in general. Listen to what they have to say, and learn from their experiences.
  • Utilize the trainer - If something hurts you, go talk to the trainer! Even if you are not a varsity athlete they can at least point you in the right direction. Don’t wait to get treated for an injury.
  • Remember you’re in school to learn - Even if you really love your sport, you really came to college to learn (unless you’re one of those high school athletic prodigies who goes to a DI powerhouse on a full-ride athletic scholarship). Don’t let your academics slide. They’re likely what is going to get you a job or grad school after you finish your undergrad, not athletics.

I hope you find some of these tips useful. It’s a big time commitment to play a sport in college, no matter at what level, but it’s also very rewarding physically, mentally, and socially. Have fun with it!

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