The Balancing Act of Student Athletes

The term student-athlete in itself implies a balance or equal dedication to both academics and athletics. Not an easy task even for the most dedicated students.

Over the past couple of years I have watched my own daughter balance varsity swimming with a rigorous academic load, it certainly isn’t easy! Part of her success as a student athlete comes from her innate drive and organization, an equal amount of credit is owed to her teachers and coaches. In preparation for this blog I asked her coach Michelle Carlson for her tips to help students with this balance. (She herself balances teaching, coaching, her own training AND a personal life very well).

– Sarah Dodge (Owner, Homeworks For Students)

Michelle’s Words of Wisdom

The most important thing to remember when it comes to balancing academics and sports or extracurricular activities is to have a schedule. This schedule is a 24-hour schedule. Sure, you might veer off of it from time to time, but it will help you get back on track when things seem to be more busy and/or overwhelming.

I work with many student athletes and at the beginning of each season I remind them that school comes before sports because they are first students then athletes. I also know that students today are feeling more and more pressure to do “everything”.  With that in mind, I let my student-athletes know that everyone has the same 24-hours it’s just a matter of how we use them.

For some student-athletes this balance comes naturally and for others it’s hard to grasp. Below, are a few tricks I use to help my student-athletes. All these tricks require one to be truly honest to oneself and change what needs to be changed. This will truly lead to being more centered and having time for “everything”.


Write out your entire 24-hours on paper.

Write your activities down to the minute when you are up during the day. Sleeping should be written as a block of time. Once on paper, look at where you should be using your time more wisely. We all have time that can be better utilized.

Know what you need!

If you are a person that needs time to recharge alone after a long day, write that time into your schedule. Do the same if your time to recharge is spending time with people in social situations. We all recharge differently!


Know that there will be sacrifices that will need to be made. The first is always social. This will probably be the most difficult!!! If you want to be a star athlete and have a high GPA, social life will be a bit of a sacrifice. I’m not saying to not be social; I’m saying use your time wisely. For example, you’re invited to a friend’s birthday party, go, but you don’t need to stay out until the party ends or stay overnight. Stick to your schedule. If your bedtime is 11pm, leave the party at 10:15/10:30pm so you are in bed on time. 

Stress Management

If you are stressing out about an upcoming test and you’re trying to stay up late to finish studying, go to bed! Your body is telling you to sleep. Your brain processes when you sleep and you do your best learning at night while sleeping. Instead of fighting to stay awake and study, go to bed at your normal time or close to normal time and then get up an hour or so earlier. You will feel more focused and refreshed in the morning and will also do better on your test.

Ask for help!

Get a tutor or go to your teacher or even a friend or family member to assist with homework that needs extra help. We all do better with help.

Minimize Multi-Tasking

When studying, don’t multi-task. Turn off your phone and give it to your parent so you’re not tempted to text, snap chat, look on Facebook, etc. Go on social media when it’s your recharge time or when your homework is finished.


Take time to breathe. Listen to what your body needs. Is it sleep, food, exercise or family and friends? Learning how to be mindful of your body helps you be mindful of your time.

Know that each day is different but do your best to plan ahead and stay on schedule.

Example of a 24-hour Schedule

6:00am Wake up
6:01-6:03am Make bed
6:03-6:05am Brush teeth, use restroom
6:05-6:06am Get dressed
6:07-7:07am Go for a training run
7:07-7:15am Stretch
7:15-7:45am Shower and get ready for the day
7:45-8:20am Travel to school
8:20-8:30am Social time before school
8:30-9:20am Math
9:25-10:15am History
10:20-11:10am Art
11:15-12:05pm Physics
12:05-12:35pm Lunch
12:40-1:30pm Comp
1:35-2:25pm Spanish
2:25-3:15pm Free period/tutorial
3:15-3:30pm Social time with friends
3:35-4:25pm Homework
4:25-4:27pm Change for dryland training
4:27-4:30pm Recharge time
4:30-7:15pm Dryland training and swim practice
7:15-7:25pm Shower and get dressed
7:26-7:45pm Travel home
7:46-8:05pm Eat dinner
8:06-10:30pm Homework
This is where you really want to be specific with your time based on your schedule
10:30pm-6:00am SLEEP
6:00am Wake up and do it again! 

For many students this advice will help them stay focused, get good grades, be successful in their sport AND have fun.  For other students, the drive to be successful in the classroom and playing sports can be a real struggle. Watch for our next blog about helping student athletes manage stress and anxiety.


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