Adjusting To Life As A Student Athlete
Photo Courtesy: Kenyon College Athletics
By Erin Keaveny, Swimming World Contributor.
We’re almost three weeks into the college academic calendar, which for many swimming and diving programs means practice has started as well. For student-athletes, particularly freshman, adjusting to the rigors of college athletics and academics can be a difficult process.
According to one study out of Southern Connecticut State University, students who tie athletics directly into their identity, and students who were high school athletic stars, often have the hardest time adjusting to life at the collegiate level.
Although it can be hard, there are ways to make school feel like home. Some of these ways are simple lifestyle changes, while the rest are ways to make an often challenging situation mentally manageable.
Stress is Manageable.
If there is one thing that a new student-athlete does to improve their experience, it’s manage their time.
Time management can mean different things for different people, but once you figure out what that means for you, it can be a great stress relief. Keeping a planner, taking advantage of study halls, and looking ahead in class syllabi are all ways to help manage time.
On the same note, academics should be your priority. Managing school, sports, friends, and sleep is not an easy task, and it can be easy to forget what is most important. It’s hard to skip social events to study or get to bed early, but falling behind in class and losing sleep can have serious negative effects on your body, your mental state, and your GPA. However, planning ahead and getting work done before it’s due can free time for other things.
If you’re stressed out about school, use practice as an outlet. Jumping into the pool should be a time during your day where you focus on the task at hand, and leave your worries at the door. While it’s easier said then done, the pool should be a place where you find joy, and forget the paper that’s due next week for a couple hours.
That doesn’t mean it’s always going to be fun. College athletics is hard. Many freshman haven’t practiced as often as they do when they get to college, even fewer have had experience with a vigorous weight room program, and that is a big adjustment.
You’re going to have bad days.
There will be days where your body is so tired you don’t think you can make it up a flight of stairs, never mind a three hour practice. The key is to not let that bad day turn into bad days. Getting into a habit of negative thinking and developing a bad attitude is guaranteed to make you miserable.
It’s ok to complain about being sore, or how tired you are, but there’s a fine line between the occasional complaint and negativity.
You’re getting better.
Especially in the middle of the season, when it’s the dead of winter and it’s still dark when you leave practice in the morning, it’s easy to question what you’re doing, and if you’re improving. It’s important to take a step back and realize how far you’ve come. Whether that means that you’ve gotten stronger, or faster, or even that you’ve learned something about yourself.
Think back to what you were doing a year ago, maybe even before that. Watch a couple videos or look back at old race times and remind yourself of how far you’ve come.
It’s worth it.
As a student-athlete, you’re one of the 460,000 special people out of 19.9 million college students that get the chance to represent your school through athletics. That’s special.
Make the best of your time as a student-athlete. It won’t last forever.
You’re not alone.
Rely on your teammates to hold you accountable, and to pick you up when you’re down. If you’re going through something like adjusting to college life, chances are high that most of your teammates have had the same exact feeling you’re having at some point in their career. Talk to them about it.
Being away from home, especially for the first time, isn’t easy. Remember that your teammates, coaching staff, and administrators are there to help you along the way. Plus, your family is always just a phone call away.
Remember why you started in the first place.
Think back to the little kid who fell in love with their sport. Would they be proud of you? My guess is that you’ve become someone your younger self would have looked up to, and that’s something to be extremely proud of.
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.