1) Time management
You have 8 hours of school and then 4 hours of training, which leaves you only 2 hours left for studying. Time management is key and it takes a while to perfect it.
Having good time management includes doing your homework ahead of time so that you don’t need to do it when you get home or reading a paper you have to read on the train on the way home. It takes determination and grit to have good time management, because who would want to focus on Shakespeare on the way home instead of listening to your favourite artist? Being a student athlete with good time management is someone who can easily win the battle against procrastination.
2) Avoid mental burnouts
According to nata.org, “burnout is a response to chronic stress of continued demands in a sport or activity without the opportunity for physical and mental rest and recovery”. Student athletes encounter a lot of mental burnouts due to their overly packed schedule and overwhelming amount of stuff to finish. Avoiding mental burnouts by giving yourself a rest day and practicing self care is not a waste of time. It’s the first step towards success. Understanding your body and knowing you need time off allows your muscles to relax and release the tension it has been building up in the last few days. Try to distract yourself from worrying or thinking about your problems during the day off. Relax, meditate, watch some Netflix and chill. Giving yourself a day off helps you feed off your negative energy and bring yourself back into the mindset you need to get into.
3) Keep track of school work and absences
The exciting thing about being a student athlete is skipping school to go to overseas tournaments. But that also means skipping a week of lessons which makes you fall behind by 7 days. Keeping track of your school work and absences means communicating with your friends and teachers. Let your teachers know when you’re leaving so that they can give you work to finish during your trip. Let your friends know so that they can help you give a brief summary about every lesson. You’re a student athlete. Take care of the “student” part before you solely focus on doing well in the tournament.
4) Speak up
You never know if a person has gone through the same issues you’ve been through so there is never harm in seeking help from others. On technical terms, If you can’t figure out a way to improve in training physically, always ask your coach or your teammates, someone will always hold an answer. On mental terms, when you're mentally exhausted, frustrated or confused, please seek help from friends, teammates, coaches, mentors, parents, professionals etc. so that you can offload the weight on your chest.
5) Be passionate about the sport
Loving the sport and being passionate about what you do is very important. As a student athlete, you are going to be constantly drained mentally and physically. It takes love and passion to drive you every day and to look forward to training even after you’ve finished your final exams.
Michael Jordan, a former professional basketball player, once said “It's an amazing thing about passion. If you love something, if you have a strong passion for something, you would go to the extreme to try to understand or try to get it.”
6) When you feel overwhelmed, remember your why.
From personal experience:
I was once overwhelmed by the stress of needing to swim faster than my competitors and reaching my goals I set for myself a while ago as well. Due to the pandemic, I wasn't able to train for a long time and when I got the chance to do so, another wave of COVID hit.
During the time when the pools were closed I kept hearing whispers that my competition was getting better and faster while I was alone sitting in my room worrying if I will ever be as good as I was before the pandemic. I started to stress out and worry about what I would do in the future, and got so caught up in it I started fearing things I never was afraid of before.
This all escalated, heavily affecting my mental health and my training, to the point where I couldn't take it anymore and I just wanted to call it quits. I was using every excuse that I had to not go to training, be late or escape from the pool, since everytime I was near it, all I could see was pain and torture. I reached out to my parents and they said I could give up if I wanted to but they suggested that I shouldn’t.
Then I clearly remember them asking me this question that I kept in mind every time when I wanted to escape from the pool “Why did you start swimming?” Why did I start? Because I loved the way I'm free in the water, how it’s like diving into another world away from life’s issues and how it feels safe like home. I didn’t start because I had to compete with others, I started because I love it and that’s all that matters.
There is no purpose in pursuing the sport if the passion is gone. Find out why. Find out why you have gone so far, what got you to keep going? Use it to get back up on your feet and go after your goals. Remember your why.