Sure, practices will be long, games will be tough, and the training in the off-season is nothing others will envy. But managing a good GPA and a social life as a college athlete (hoprfully with a sports scholarship!) is easier than you think.
Many students entering college as athletes wonder how they are going to manage keeping up their grades and social lives while playing sports. Here’s what to expect as a student-athlete, from my own experiences of being a Division I athlete at Arizona State University.
Expect to make friends
When you go on that first recruiting trip hoping to win a sports scholarship, you will meet the team you will probably play with for the next few years. When you go to your first practice, you will meet your 25 new best friends.
These are the people who you will room with in the residence halls and when you move out of the dorms. You will sit next to them on the bench and in lecture halls. You will run with them during a game and to your next class. They will tell you what to improve on both in a practice and on an English paper. They will push you to do your best on the field and in the classroom.
Expect to focus on your grades
Student-athletes have to remember that they are students first. You’ll have to keep up your grades (especially if you have a scholarship) in order to continue to be an athlete at your college. The NCAA requires athletes to maintain a minimum 2.3 GPA.
To help you accomplish your academic goals, some teams require athletes to spend a certain amount of hours studying each week. Your coaches will advise you to use the athletic facilities for more than just weight training. Use the computers and the tutors the athletic department provides. Your hours may be recorded for your coach to monitor.
Your coach might even ask for midterm evaluations from your professors to make sure you are on track with your grades. You may find that sometimes, you’ll have to skip a practice in favor of an academic event. Go to class. If you skip, you might be benched the next game, no matter how good of a player you are.
At Arizona State University, each team usually has a grade competition with each other just for the sake of more competition. For the past seven years, the ASU women’s soccer team has had the highest team GPA.
There is no doubt that you should get your homework done before an away game. Usually, an athletic adviser will travel with the team to keep players on track. This can be a pain, but what better thing to do than homework on a three-hour flight to Seattle?
Expect to have fun
The athletic department might set up athlete dances throughout the year, which are somewhat like a high school formal dance. They are a blast! It gives you the chance to meet the other athletes representing your college, break out of your shell and have your fellow athletes see what you look like outside of your sweat and jersey.
Support your fellow athletes, too, by attending their games as a team. Or arrange game nights or potluck dinners once a week with your team. Anything you can do to bond with your team will help you on and off the field.
Remember, whether you are playing a game, attending class or going out, you represent yourself, your team and your school.