Congratulations! You’ve graduated high school. You get to celebrate with your friends and family and move onto the next phase of life: college. Soon, you’ll be taking classes that fit to your future and pique your interests. You’ll be in a whole new community, where many other students will become your lifelong friends. You’ll have a campus to memorize and get used to. You’re going to have a roommate (or two…or even three) that you’ll adjust your living style with.
And, on top of all of this… you’re going to play a sport.
It sounds overwhelming, I know. But, a balance can be found! When you discover it, you’ll learn the same exact lesson I did straightaway my freshman year: playing a sport in college is possible, and it’s very enhancing for your experience.
Balancing It All
First things first, Houghton’s athletics department as a whole—coaches, trainers, officials, everyone—wants your academics to come first, always. You’ll never have to stress about choosing between your sport and academics. They make the choice for you. If you need the extra time to meet with a professor in a tough class, your coach will do their best to allow you that time. If you have a class that conflicts with a practice time, your coach won’t make you miss your class. Academics are always the priority for student athletes, which takes away much of the stress that can typically be felt with balancing it all.
Houghton is also extremely helpful in finding this balance because of its professors. Your professors will always do whatever they can to keep you afloat in your classes, no matter how busy you may be with sports. They’re more than willing to meet with you outside of class or email you with information that you need. On days when you have to miss class for a game, they understand and are quick to provide you with anything you’re missing. The Houghton professors love their student athletes and will do whatever they can to help them be the best students they can be.
Tips to Succeed as a Student Athlete
As far as tips go, I’ve found many that work very well for me. The first is understanding that being a student athlete means you must prioritize. Whether this has to do with homework assignments or social endeavors, you have to prioritize everything you do in order to make things work. If you have a late practice and can’t get all your homework done, get the work for whatever classes you have in the morning done first. Then, you can find time later the next day to finish the work for afternoon classes.
If your friends are hanging out at the campus center at night but your homework hasn’t been done yet because of practice, make sure you either finish that first or bring it with you and maintain your focus. While it’s important to maintain a social life and spend time with the people that support you, it’s also important to make sure that you’re staying true to the student part of your title as a student athlete, and your friends will easily understand that.
Taking Care of YOU
This prioritization for many, however, neglects an important part of a student athlete’s routine—sleep. It is so important as a student athlete to get the amount of sleep that you need. This means no staying up until the early hours of the morning—even for homework. If you’ve hit your figurative brick wall for the night and haven’t finished all of your assignments, it’s better to get some shut-eye and then finish the rest the next day, if you can.
Whatever assignments are most important should be done first, and then you can sleep without feeling as guilty about not finishing the less important ones. For example, if you have an essay for a 1:00 class and some reading for an 8:00 class but only have time to do one before you have to get to sleep, do the essay over the reading. Making these important decisions and prioritizing is a key element of finding a balance as a student athlete.
It’s so important to keep yourself healthy. Sleep obviously factors heavily into this, but your choice of food is also critical. Walking into the Houghton dining hall is like walking into a culinary wonderland—pizza at almost every meal, delectable desserts lining the dinner selections, Perry’s ice cream of almost any flavor you could ever want…it’s tempting. Yet, in season, it is so important to go for the proteins and greens first.
Athletes know what diets fit their bodies best in season, and not everyone is the same. You must, however, stick to what you know is best for you. If you don’t, then you’ll find yourself struggling to be a full-time student and athlete simultaneously. Your immune system and your body will be at risk if you choose to eat poorly. Eating smart will help you to maintain a balance.
Finding Support in Your Team
It is most important, however, to let your team help you. Houghton’s community already feels like one big family, but having a team is like having a super close-knit family that’s willing to help you with anything and everything. If you’re struggling academically or having problems with how you’re playing, let a teammate know and have them help you. You’re not the only student athlete on campus—your teammates are just a few of them, and they will all be willing to help you and guide you through. They won’t let your academics hurt your game and vice versa. They want you to be the best version of yourself that you can be—and, as a student athlete, it’s so important to understand that and use them as a tool in helping yourself stay afloat.
Being a student athlete is such a rewarding experience in your Houghton journey. Not only do you get the excitement of the classroom and interesting topics, but you also get the thrill of the game or games that you love playing the most. On top of that, you’ll have professors, coaches, and teammates that will encourage you to be the best student and athlete that you can be and want you to succeed in every area of your college career. Right now, it may seem almost impossible to find a balance between college academics and college sports, but—as long as you prioritize, stay healthy, and find help whenever you need it—you’ll be good to go, and get an enhanced experience at Houghton. Finding a balance is very possible, and it is so worth it!
Molly is a member of the Class of 2022, and a member of the women’s field hockey team at Houghton.