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5 pieces of advice for student-athletes

Being a student-athlete can be tiring and demanding but rewarding and fulfilling at the same time. It teaches life values that can be carried into many different facets of life, whether on the field of play or off.

Having an open mindset and taking lessons learned in stride is an important perspective to have as a student-athlete.

No one answer will help all situations, but there are some helpful lessons I’ve learned that I’ll offer as advice for you to lean on when navigating your student-athlete life.

Student athlete advice
Photo: Payne Photography

5 PIECES OF ADVICE FOR STUDENT-ATHLETES

1. Time management goes beyond scheduled commitments

As a student-athlete, you can often find your 24 hours in a day jam-packed with commitments: practices, classes, homework, work, gym sessions, one-on-one sessions, meetings, meal prepping, the list goes on and on.

In addition to your scheduled commitments, it’s also important to balance your personal life and relationships. Prioritizing those in your life or activities that aren’t sport-related can be very beneficial to the life you lead. Allowing or building in time to connect with friends and family and do activities outside of your sport can help prevent burnout or being consumed by your sport.

Your commitment to being a student-athlete is important, but there is more to life than being an athlete. You deserve to enjoy everything life and the people around you have to offer. 

2. Self-care above all else

Self-care as a student-athlete should be your main priority. It’s okay to be selfish if it means putting your physical, mental and emotional well-being first. No performance is worth jeopardizing your self-care, and sometimes that can be hard to accept and prioritize.

Most student-athletes feel the pressure to meet or exceed expectations, commitments, and the demands of their sporting commitments. While it’s important to be accountable for your commitments as a student-athlete and “put in the extra work”, that doesn’t always mean spending more time on the field, ice, court or at the gym. Sometimes it means giving yourself a much-needed (and deserved) rest day or subbing out a run for a long walk outside in the sun.

Putting your self-care first as a student-athlete can also mean recognizing when you need a break from your life commitments to get that extra sleep, get to the grocery store to properly prepare to fuel your body or check in with your mental performance coach.

To be selfish about what you need in a moment, day or week to feel good about yourself, whether physically, mentally or emotionally, is what will help you become a better athlete in the future. And there is no shame in a good old self-care night, and whatever that may look like is totally up to you. 

3. Your resources and support systems are your best allies for success

There is no I in “team” and thank goodness for that. Being a student-athlete can be overwhelming, but thankfully most student-athletes have multiple resources and support systems at their disposal, and I highly recommend you use them.

These support systems and resources are your best allies for success. Whether in the form of teammates, coaches, sports psychologists, nutritionists, strength and conditioning coaches, athletic therapists or student volunteers, these people generally have your best interests at heart. They want to see you succeed, so use their knowledge and assistance to help you achieve your goals. And if a support system or resource is missing, don’t be afraid to search for it or advocate for it. You are probably not alone in wanting or searching for that support system or resource.

And don’t forget to thank those who assist you in your student-athletic careers. Though you dedicate so much time to your student-athlete life, these support systems are just as invested in you. 

4. Success is not linear

Two steps forward and five steps back is sometimes what a pathway of a student-athlete can be. Whether in the classroom, on the field of play or in your personal life. There will always be different opportunities, obstacles and challenges that will limit the success you can have as a student-athlete.

Often your actions can influence the outcome of your success, but sometimes the cards fall where they may. Being resilient and understanding that success does not occur overnight is a key quality to possess as a student-athlete.

Success is not linear, but the ability to adapt, pivot or welcome a challenge is a positive way to work through those obstacles that may be preventing you from being successful. More often than not, you will be stronger because of the challenge or obstacle you overcome. 

5. Your legacy as an individual is greater than any athletic performance

Winning games or personal sports achievements is rewarding, but something that lasts longer is the legacy you leave as an individual.

Your legacy can be the impact you held as a teammate, your dedication to your sports program, or contributions to the university and community. Your legacy is yours to define, and it is far greater than any win or loss.

As a student-athlete, you will be a part of a community for only four or five years. Make the most of your time there, whether it’s in the classroom, through contributions to the sports program or the community. Leave your mark for those to look up to and remember when you leave. 

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