Playing a college sport while balancing college coursework is a lot like juggling two full-time jobs. Add in a social life, family responsibilities, and any other extracurricular activities, and your schedule is bound to become overwhelming.
Excelling as both a student and an athlete is not easy, but it definitely isn’t impossible. Former professional tennis player and UCLA academic all-American and national champion, Justin Gimelstob offers these tips for staying on track, both academically and athletically.
Keep a Planner
Even with all of the benefits of technology, Justin Gimelstob still believes in the value of having a tangible daily planner to stay organized. The planner should be in addition to, not in spite of, all of the benefits of modern technology and devices. The ideal fit is the combination of the paper planner synced with your electronic devices along with setting electronic alerts. Use your planner to keep track of everything: your class schedule, assignment and test dates, social commitments, practice, fitness and game schedules, along with everything else. Every night look at the next day’s schedule in order to be best prepared.
Also, Justin Gimelstob feels strongly in making to-do lists. Athletes are very goal oriented, so having tangible reminders help keep you focused and organized. It is important to find something that will keep you on task and give you a sense of accomplishment when you cross an item off the list.
While juggling academics, athletics, and enjoying the overall college experience, Justin Gimelstob warns you need to respect the importance of rest and sleep. Often times in college, sleep is the area that student athletes cut first. It is imperative to prioritize sleep as it is integral to maximizing your performance in all areas. Sleep is essential for productivity. It is a pivotal opportunity for your body and mind to heal and regenerate. The more you sleep, the more your mind can maximize production and do so efficiently.
Your performance, whether on the field or in the classroom, can only be as good as the energy you have to dedicate toward it. If your sleep schedule is inconsistent or deficient, your performance likely will be as well. Justin Gimelstob understands that the college experience does and should include fun evenings. He just recommends that they should be done in moderation and while being cognizant of your academic and athletic goals. In addition, when anticipating a big night out, try and offset it with either a nap before or make sure you have the ability to sleep in the next day. The body and mind of a student athlete is already taxed at a higher rate than your fellow classmates. So, you need to be more vigilant as to how best to stay healthy.
For optimal performance, Justin Gimelstob recommends student athletes work diligently to develop a regular, healthy sleep routine. Set a strict bedtime and stick to it. Most importantly, turn off your electronic devices 60-90 minutes before bed to give yourself time to wind down. Doing so will improve your sleep quality, mood, increase your focus, and help you excel in your busy life.
Communicate with your Instructors
A lot of student athletes have access to several resources available to them that can provide them with extra assistance where necessary; especially when it comes to tutoring and study groups. Also, Justin Gimelstob does not want you to forget the most important resource you have at your disposal in college, the wisdom and experience of your highly regarded professors and coaches
For college athletes, fostering positive relationships with your educators and coaches is even more essential. Due to scheduling conflicts that arise from your athletic commitments, Justin Gimelstob recommends keeping an open line of communication with your both professors and coaches in order to combat scheduling conflicts. Doing so will not only foster a mutually respectful relationship, it will also prove essential in making sure you receive the support you need.
Study on the Go
Everyone’s most valuable resource is their time. At a very young age, Justin learned one of his most important lessons, to use your “scraps of time”. This means using little windows of time effectively instead of wasting them. Whether it be car or bus rides, flights, time in-between classes, or waiting in line at the cafeteria, there are pockets of time throughout the day that you can utilize to be productive. Instead of using the extra 10-15 minutes on social media or rationalizing that “there isn’t enough time” to do anything significant, you can always find something on your to-do list to chip away at. Take advantage of these “scraps of time” by flipping through some flash cards, outlining an essay, reading a few pages, or reviewing your lecture notes. The same goes for small chunks of time like those between classes or social engagements, it all adds up.
Ask for Help
Justin Gimelstob understands that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. The challenges and stress from being a student athlete can be helped by having an excellent support system. This support can come from family, friends, coaches, trainers, TA’s, tutors, counselors, professors and teammates. Student athletes need to use every resource available in order to maximize their success.
Schedule Time to Relax to Prevent Burnout
Justin Gimelstob understands that not every part of the college experience should be about achievement. A significant part of college should be about trying new things, meeting new people, and having fun. You also need to find time to just simply relax. For high achievers, which almost all college student athletes are, getting yourself to relax can actually be a challenge. You need to make sure that you allocate time for yourself to relax and regroup. Relaxation isn’t just a way to spend your leftover time, it’s a mental health measure that should be made a priority.
Check yourself for signs of burn out, some examples include disproportionately getting agitated both athletically and academically. Be aware of your temperament and cut yourself some slack, it is a challenge to manage the balance of academics and athletics at a high level. But that is also the best part, try to embrace the challenge.
It seems paradoxical, but rest is a key to productivity. In fact, it is imperative to balancing a full and busy college career. All too often, time-stressed college athletes push relaxation time to the bottom of their priority list. For many, it is viewed as a much-desired treat which is only allowed when everything else has been neatly tackled and achieved. But for the busy college athlete, there’s likely always something demanding your attention.
No one can do it all. Some struggle to know their limits until they have far exceeded them. The life of a student athlete can be extremely stressful, and thus Justin Gimelstob advises to remain cautious of your mental and physical health.
The signs of burnout include chronic fatigue, insomnia, forgetfulness, lowered immune system, anxiety, and depression. If you’re experiencing any of these, reach out to someone qualified to receive the help you need. That way, you can make any necessary changes and continue excelling both academically and athletically.