How Do College Athletes Manage Their Time?


(Nigel Pepper)

Think you’re busy now?

Just wait until you’re a college athlete.

A recent study CBSSports obtained details just how much goes into being a Division I athlete. According to the student-athletes, an average week of practice, voluntary training and physical therapy could take up to 50 hours.

(While the study only asked Pac-12 athletes for their responses, the NCAA has released similar information which is being used in the UNC lawsuit about “paper classes.”)

50 hours!

50. Just to put some perspective on that number, NCAA only allows a maximum of 20 hours per week of required athletics (the survey found the required sessions were only one hour over that cap — 21 hours.)

What happens is that things spill over — things like traveling to competitions, or therapy — and voluntary events and practices often don’t seem all that voluntary.

When asked why they feel these activities are actually required, athletes feel pressured not only by coaches and teammates but also from themselves. Many do not want to let their team down by missing a practice and say that they will look uncommitted to the team; some student-athletes say they feel skipping voluntary activities ultimately hurts their chances of success in the future. Others are afraid to miss a voluntary practice because the coach may punish them for skipping… (Student-Athlete Time Demands April 2015)

While these numbers represent a typical week for NCAA Division I athletes, there’s no doubt that there are challenges for student-athletes in Division II and III, in the NAIA and at junior colleges. How do college athletes manage their time to stay on top of practices, competitions, classes and extracurriculars–and still have time for friends? And how can high school student-athletes prepare for the challenges of being a college athlete?

Practice good time management skills now.

Are you finding yourself waiting until the last minute to write that ten-page history assignment? Just think about how cramming that late-night writing session would feel after a long day of training and studying.

Everyone’s method of keeping track of their time and assignments is different. But you need to know what yours is in order to succeed at it. Find one. Try a couple different methods: writing in an assignment book, keeping track of things in a private tumblr page or in notes on your phone. Whatever works for you is the right answer.

Find your support network.

Most colleges have tutoring within majors, campus writing and resource centers and study groups specifically for athletes. If you’re a senior who’s already signed a commitment to play at a school, make sure you know where those resources are.

If you’re an underclassmen still considering which offer to accept or which coaches and rosters seem like the best opportunity for you, take the time to ask how current team members stay on top of their studies.

Lay groundwork so you can ask for help.

In addition to finding tutor or study group opportunities, be a good class participant. That means everything from getting to class on time (and maybe wearing more than last night’s sweatpants and t-shirt) to raising your hand to participate.

Guys, this isn’t just me trying to tell you to be good students. Think about it: if you find yourself running ragged and need help with making up a test or getting a flexible due date, you’ll feel much more comfortable going to a professor who knows your name and recognizes you as a serious student who is also a talented athlete.

As with all of these tips, earlier is better. If you do need help with a test or assignment, use those time management skills we just talked about to recognize the issue early — and avoid asking for an extension the morning the assignment’s due.

Remember what you want to be when you grow up.

I know I just said I wasn’t going to berate you to be good students.

I lied.

Because we can never forget that while we’re out to compete in our sport in college, we’re at college to get the degree that will help us succeed as professionals.

And it’ll be hard when you’re sitting for a med school interview when you need to answer why you had poor scores in organic biology because you weren’t managing your time well. Or when you’re sitting for an interview at Buzzfeed’s offices and don’t have a substantial portfolio because you’re embarrassed of the papers you phoned it in on.

Go out. Compete. Have a great time. Be the best you can be at your position, at your sport, and at your major.

Do you want to talk more about what it will take to succeed in college? Our scouts are always here for you.

About the author
Andy McKernan

Andy McKernan is the content strategist at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. A content marketer with a background in creative writing, Andy brings several years of experience to NCSA.