Have you ever heard the phrase, “If you wait until the last minute to do it, it only takes a minute to do?” Well, in most cases this is not true and will not cut it for most college students, especially student athletes. It takes a lot of prioritizing, responsibility, and motivation to be successful in the classroom. All of the people that succeed in college have one strong skill in common: good time management. These people are able to create a balance of work time, play time, and down time. They know how to organize their lives so that they have time to complete quality school work efficiently and on time, get rest, and be social with their friends. This is important for any person, but especially for student athletes. Student athletes have an entirely different responsibility that regular students do not have to keep track of. So many things come into play for student athletes such as workouts, weight training, study hours, eating, recovery, rest, and finally- free time. It is important for student athletes to practice wise time management in order to succeed academically, socially, and athletically.
First of all, it is important to know that all student athletes, although having busy schedules, are always considered students first. Here at the University of Kentucky, as well as many other universities and colleges, there is a tutoring program created and provided to all student athletes to help them succeed in their first priority of succeeding academically. The universities in which students come to compete and play for, want to see their students to achieve in the classroom and will help them as much as possible. The purpose of this program is to ensure that the student athletes are staying on top of their studies and not just focusing on the sport in which they have come to excel in or their social lives.
The University of Kentucky‘s program is called The Center for Academic and Tutorial Services (CATS). Bob Bradley, a manager at CATS once stated, “The CATS program is focused on winning in the classroom” (Bradley). CATS has been a viable resource here on campus since the 1980s and has helped athletes in many different ways. Tutoring services are required for some and open to all athletes, as well as a computer lab, and a quiet study room in which athletes spend time in to receive their required amount of study hours for each week. The amount of quiet study hours and tutor hours varies from each athletic team. CATS provides students with structured study time and readily available resources and support.
CATS has been a very beneficial resource for athletes in many ways thanks to the people that deal with athletes on a day- to- day basis. One person that does this is Thomas Strauss, a graduate assistant that helps manage the women’s swim program as well as other athletic teams at the University of Kentucky. Strauss, who has been working here for a little over a year, has certainly been around long enough to get to know athletes. He has been able to observe study habits and how different people learn in different ways. When asked what the main struggle that he has seen in efforts to maintain good time management, Strauss replied, “Trying to break the barrier to want to do something. Some students come in and want to get everything done and they are the greatest students because they are easiest to work with. If you show lazy students where they can go if they put in the work, then it is easier to make them want to accomplish things.” Many of the graduate assistants and tutors, like Strauss, are available and able to help their student athletes succeed in the classroom. “One of the most beneficial resources is tutoring because typically the people that are tutoring have some sort of background in what they are tutoring. Tutors are resources that you have to put to good use” (Strauss). The tutors and managers at CATS are to be used for help and act as a resource at the same time. Many students spend a great amount of time at CATS during their busy days.
A typical day in the life of a student athlete consists of an early start and a late finish. On a day to day basis an athlete may wake up from as early as 5 AM to attend the first workout of the day. After that is complete they will probably go to eat breakfast or, in some cases, head straight to classes. From there they eat lunch, and head to the weight room for the second workout of the day. From the second workout they will either go back to classes, attend a tutor, or go to quiet study at CATS. Although, depending on the sport, there will even be a third work out of the day! From there they will go to dinner and maybe turn in for the night (probably not), hang out with friends, work on more homework, or go back to CATS to study. As one can see, there is not a lot of down time and everyone is constantly scurrying across campus to get from place to place and to accomplish all of their activities. There is no room for wasting time or procrastination. Every athlete must learn and practice good time management to successfully maintain their grades and spot on their athletic team.
From an athlete’s perspective of having good time management in order to succeed academically, 5th year swimmer Tyler Reed has some good advice for other fellow student athletes. One of the main things that Reed would stress to a student athlete is, “Don’t put things off, as soon as you find out what’s required for homework, get it done! When you don’t you start to scramble to get things done, it becomes harder to fit everything in and you begin to miss some of the important things like practice.” An excellent point is made here and with Reed’s experience as a student athlete, his advice has a lot of value and credibility. Reed’s work ethic and perspective on time management has lead him to achieve Southeastern Conference (SEC) All Academic status at the University of Kentucky.
However, Reed also mentions the few ways that CATS might have been more of a burden than a blessing. When asked how CATS helped him, he replied, “It helped when it didn’t become a burden on you. Sometimes when they require you to be there you find yourself putting things off so you can get them done there and fill up your required time.” As one can see, there are both positives and negatives with a program like CATS. Even with this downfall of being on a schedule, Reed still had to use his time management skills to decide what he was able to put off for CATS and what he needed to accomplish right away. In the end, CATS is still in some way teaching student athletes to organize and prioritize their time.
Not only does time management matter for student athletes in the academic sense, but also in the social and mental aspect. It is important for students to have a healthy yet balanced social life for many reasons. One reason is to avoid depression and stress. Having a social life creates an outlet and an opportunity for students to do what interests them and relieves stress. According to Sarah Kliff, a study revealed that trends suggest that students are so absorbed in academia that they don’t notice their unhealthy habits (Kliff). Regular college students are stressed to the points of creating unhealthy habits that can lead to depression and many other problems. More than thirty percent of all college freshmen have reported feeling overwhelmed and ten percent of college students have been diagnosed with depression (Stress and the College Student). These statistics are taken and created from the reported cases of stress and depression; not all students receive or ask for help if they are having problems. Therefore, the percentages of students being stressed or depressed are most likely greater than we know. Seeing that regular college students, ones without required workouts and study hours, have stress issues clearly conveys that student athletes are at an even higher risk for creating unhealthy habits. According to the National Health Ministries, one of the main causes of stress among college students is higher academic demands (Stress and the College Student). In order to balance this stress, student athletes need to manage their time in order to maintain strong mental health.
Spending time with friends and doing fun activities during free time throughout the day is a way that students are able to reduce stress. Studies have shown that physical contact is a great way to relieve stress (Stress and the College Student). Student athletes should make it a goal to complete their academic work around their other various workouts in a timely manner in order to prevent stress in all areas of their busy lives. If stress is reduced in one area, it will naturally reduce in other areas as well. By using time wisely, many things will come easier and more naturally to you. In an interview with a junior baseball player, Taylor Rogers, on the topic of balancing a social life with school and sports, he stated, “It’s difficult to find the balance and for me. I consider my social time with my friends to be the times when I do my homework in my room with my roommate. There isn’t much time for socializing.” Numerous student athletes are just the opposite and spend too much time socializing or doing other things.
However, not all students focus too intensely on their studies. Some students, in most cases, decide to spend too much time socially with their friends or other activities and then become stressed when their academic work begins to pile up. According to Reed, “Being in college with so much freedom really tests your time management skills. When I had homework I used to think that I would do it later and then I would go find a friend to hang out with or another distraction. I quickly learned from my procrastination when the stress of doing my work last minute hit me” (Reed). With this being said, achieving the social balance to maintain the mental health balance can be difficult. “Students must learn to balance the many social choices they have with their academic responsibilities” (Love). When the balance is achieved it can make a world of difference in the best way possible.
Determination is a common characteristic among student athletes. The need and desire to become better, faster, and stronger is a feeling that motivates athletes. If it were up to the coaches, they would want their athletes to be training as much as possible up to the point in which training could be harmful to performances. If this were the case, student athletes would never have time to complete their schoolwork, have a social life with free time, or time to recover. To prevent this from happening, the NCAA rules state that no athlete can train over twenty hours a week (Summary of NCAA Regulations). Forms are required to be signed by all athletes on a sports team stating that they did not train more than twenty hours in one week. If a student is responsible in the academic and the social areas of their lives, the athletic aspect will come easily and work well for them.
Time management is also important for the athletic aspect because of eligibility requirements by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). This association is the official rule-making authority in collegiate sports. They act as the “police” of college athletics by performing random drug testing to giving awards to outstanding athletes. If a student athlete does not keep the required grade point average (GPA) for the year in which they are in school, they are not eligible to compete and be on an athletic team at a university. If good time management is practiced in the classroom, then the GPA that one is required to make in order to be eligible will come easier for the athlete. When Strauss was asked how things would be if CATS did not exist he responded with, “I don’t think the GPAs or academic standards of the university would be that high. Athletes would not be that well off.” Without the academic help and success, there would be no athletics for anyone. Thanks to programs like CATS that help with time management, athletes are given a better chance to succeed. However, so many other components to success are dependent upon the student athlete.
Doing things at the last minute is never a good habit to get in to. When things are done at the last minute, not only are they usually done poorly, but they can often make you late for the next task or appointment that you have during the day. This is important in the athletic sense because your team is behind you and counting on you. A blog from the New York Times, written by Xenia Stewart, a basketball player for the University of Pittsburgh states, “Keep in mind, though, there will likely be team rules about missing classes, being late for practice and workouts, etc. It would be wise not to try to squeeze things in at the last minute” (Stewart). Being late and missing workouts will affect your athletic training and abilities in a negative way for yourself, but also for the team that is counting on you. “When someone is late to a workout or misses a work out to finish homework we have a punishment workout at 5 in the morning” (Rogers). In order to avoid these punishments it takes responsibility and motivation to get work done on time, especially when a team is counting on you to be at every practice. When everyone is at practice and giving one hundred and ten percent, an athletic team is able to grow stronger and better, which leads to a higher level of success.
In order to be successful as a student athlete, one must have their priorities in line. Their busy schedules are fit together like a complicated jigsaw puzzle. All of the pieces have to fit and be in the right place in order to see the big picture that they form. Student athletes have to manage their time so precisely in order to work hard in all aspects of their lives. According to Stewart, “The No. 1 thing you need is good time management” (Stewart). If good time management is practiced on a day-to-day basis then a student athlete will be able to excel in their sport and in the classroom. If time management were not practiced, the amount of stress would be enormous and the ability to complete everyday tasks demanded by coaches, teachers, or graduate assistants, would become impossible.