Managing Schoolwork as an Athlete

Student athletes who want to do well on the field, on the court, as well as in the classroom and in the lab, can sometimes feel like they are constantly facing an uphill battle.  Coaches, teachers, parents, and friends all put demands on their time. It can seem like there is not enough hours in the day to do everything that needs to be done. It may seem like there are no easy solutions. And, that’s true, but as they say, nothing worthwhile every comes easy. How many times did the ball bounce off your foot when you were trying to do a crossover dribble? Now you can do it with your eyes closed. Read below for some suggestions

Developing a 5-step game plan

The good news is that by learning how to manage your time, you can be BOTH a successful student and athlete. Effective time management means developing a game plan which consists of (1) setting priorities and goals, (2) getting organized, (3) creating a schedule (and sticking to that schedule), (4) tracking your progress and (5) making changes as needed.

Step 1: Setting Priorities and Goals

Your priorities are the things that are most important to you…like going to college, getting drafted, hanging out friends, playing video game and so on. You will need to think hard about this and rank them in order of what’s most important…not just now, but down the road in 5-10 years. You may also need to do a little research. For example, while playing ball is fun and can be satisfying, the odds of becoming professional are very slim. It is estimated that only 3 out of 10,000 high school basketball players will make it to the NBA, or about 0.03 percent. So, getting good grades and going on to have a career in law, education, nursing or social work may be a better bet to get a good job and provide for yourself and your family. Having a sense for your priorities ahead of time will make it easier to decide how to manage your time.

Your goals are what you want to accomplish. For example, “I want to make A’s in my classes this semester” or “I want to spend four days a week training for my sport.” After you set your goals, come up with an estimate of how much time per week it will take you to achieve them. You will use these estimates to create your schedule.

Step 2: Getting organized

You’ll also want to get organized, if you are not already. As Benjamin Franklin once said,” if you fail to plan…then plan to fail”. These days becoming organized can be made a little easier because you have more tools to assist you. Some scholar athletes find downloading a calendar app for their phone or buying a paper planner to use during the week. You can write down your class and practice schedule; homework assignments; dates for exams and games; and other relevant notes in your planner. Also organize your schoolwork, by using a binder with tabs–one for each class–so you can quickly and easily find notes to study for quizzes and tests and to keep your homework assignments in order.

Step 3: Creating a schedule

For your schedule, start with a weekly calendar and block time for your fixed events. These are things like class and sports practice, which are mandatory. Next you need to schedule time for eight hours of sleep each night, and for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Also allow time for getting ready in the morning and some downtime in the evening and weekends, as well. Now take your goals and add the time to your schedule that you estimate you will need to accomplish them. This is your core schedule that you can use as a basis for managing your time during the week.

Step 4: Keeping Track

Once your schedule is complete, try it out. Do your best to stick to the schedule and track your progress. You may also want to find someone who can help keep you on track. A BeWell Health Coach, for example, would be happy to help you. You can check in with your BeWell Health Coach on a weekly basis to report on your progress and get additional tips and advice.

If you find that some activities take longer than planned, think about ways you can be more efficient in the future. For example, if you thought an essay would take 3 hours to write, but it took 8 hours, what happened? When you review with your BeWell Health Coach, it could be that you did not finish doing all the reading, or your notes were not organized, or you kept getting interrupted by your phone beeping with tweets and texts and Instagram alerts.

Step 5: Making changes

Doing this analysis described above will help you decide what changes need to be made.

It could be that you need to be better organized (see Step 2) or you may need to leave your phone in the kitchen when you are studying in your bedroom. Or, if you really need to spend more time on your assignments, then you may have to cut back on something else, like hanging out with your friends or playing video games. This goes back to Step 1 (priorities and goals)

Schedules are not written in stone. Adjustments may need to be made. Once you find a schedule that works for you, stick to it on a regular basis, and you will start to see results. You will also find that your days are less stressful, and you should be well on your way to achieving your goals in school and as an athlete.

And, even if you don’t make to the pros, the time management skills you learned along the way will still be helpful as you get ready to start your career. In fact, many industry leaders’ welcome applications from scholar athletes because they have demonstrated that they can perform under pressure and work well as a member of a team.


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