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5 Powerful Benefits of Journaling for Student-Athletes and How to Get Started

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Remember those childhood diaries where you poured your heart out onto the pages? Well, turns out, writing down your thoughts, feelings and emotions has serious benefits. And guess what? It’s not just for kids! Journaling is a powerful tool, especially in the world of athletics, and it can do wonders for student-athletes like you. Get ready to dive into the world of journaling for student-athletes. 

We’ve gathered insights from Jaylynn Stewart, a former D1 and D3 basketball player turned D3 coach, and Logan James, a seasoned D3 lacrosse coach and player. They’ve seen firsthand how journaling can transform an athlete’s journey, and they’re here to share their knowledge with you.  

As you read through, you’ll find valuable tips and athlete journal prompts to help you get started. But that’s not all! We have a special treat lined up just for you at the end—a resource designed to kickstart your own journaling journey and unleash your full potential as a student-athlete. It’s time to enter your journaling era.  

1. Journaling helps you discover your true self

Journaling is like having a personal conversation with yourself. It’s a chance to dig deep and figure out who you really are beyond just being a student-athlete.  

Write about your dreams, your passions and anything else that you like – or don’t like! Let your thoughts flow onto the page and get to know the real you. It’s an exciting journey of self-discovery that can help you unlock your full potential. 

Coach Jaylynn Stewart: “Journaling allowed me to self-reflect and be honest with myself, which I believe led to a greater self-awareness. The better I was able to understand myself, the more I could navigate my next steps to not only improve my mental health but improve my play on the court.” 

Journal prompts for self-discovery:

2. Journaling helps you release stress

Feeling stressed out? Journaling can help! Grab a pen and pour out all your worries and frustrations onto the paper.  

Write about what’s been bothering you or the challenges you’re facing.  Let your journal be your “stress-free” zone, where you can let it all out and find some inner peace. 

Coach Logan James: “Journaling is a way to get things off your mind and out into the open. It is a safe way to vent or express yourself without immediate feedback, as we are not always open to immediate feedback when expressing frustrations.” 

Journal prompts for stress release:

3. Journaling helps you set goals and track progress

Think of your goals as your personal game plan for success, and journaling as the playbook that helps you make those goals a reality.  

Start by writing down your goals and breaking them into smaller, actionable steps. Your journal becomes your accountability partner, helping you stay on track and actively working towards your goals. 

Coach Logan James: “Could not agree more with this. I often asked my college athletes to write down goals, action steps, thoughts, feelings, etc. It brings self-awareness and accountability to the table, because what good is a goal if we aren’t actively taking steps to reach it? With journaling, you can continuously go back and see where you had setbacks, overcame, saw success and so on.” 

Journal prompts for goal setting:

4. Journaling helps you build mental resilience

Sports can be tough. And life can throw us some curveballs too. That’s where journaling comes in to help you build mental resilience.  

Write about the challenges you’ve faced and how you’ve bounced back. Reflect on your strengths and the strategies that have helped you overcome obstacles. Let your journal be your training ground for resilience, helping you stay strong and confident. 

Coach Jaylynn Stewart: “Journaling gives you an opportunity to look back on that time in your life and see how far you’ve come, both physically and mentally. That growth may be much more difficult to see if it’s not documented. Whether that’s weeks, months, or years, being able to see, your development as a person and/or as an athlete is something to celebrate.” 

Journal prompts for resilience:

5. Journaling helps you celebrate milestones

You’ve accomplished some amazing things, and you know what? They deserve to be celebrated! Journaling is a way to document and celebrate those milestones.  

Write about your proudest moments, both big and small, and capture the feelings and excitement of reaching your goals. Your journal becomes a flashback to these moments and can serve as a source of inspiration. So, pat yourself on the back every once in a while, and let your journal be your personal hall of fame. 

Coach Logan James: “Journaling allows us to celebrate our successes, including little victories on our own for a moment. There is so much outside noise, that sometimes we miss celebrating the little things because what may be important to you may not be a priority or something of recognition to someone else.” 

Journal prompts for milestone celebrations:

Journaling Q&A with college coaches

Q: Did you journal as a college athlete?  

Coach Jaylynn Stewart: “I did. Journaling helped me to find an outlet for my thoughts and feelings and helped me navigate those feelings in a positive way. Four years of college basketball brought me a lot of joy, but it also brought feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Journaling was one of the ways I was able to work my way out of those negative feelings and really start to figure out who I was as a person and who I wanted to be.” 

Q: What advice would you give to student-athletes looking to incorporate journaling into their routine? 

Coach Logan James: “Start small! I cannot emphasize this enough. Find 5 minutes to jot a thought(s) down on paper. For me, sometimes it was sticky notes. When I was a college athlete, I had sticky notes all over my wardrobe closet. Sometimes seeing the thought is enough to prompt you to reflect on it a little deeper when you have more time.” 

Q: How can athletes stay committed to journaling?  

Coach Jaylynn Stewart: “Committing to journaling takes some discipline and willingness to create a habit out of it. I recommend building it into your routine – it only needs to be 10-15 minutes, but creating that habit of writing every day makes it much easier to stick with it.” 

Q: Why do student-athletes stop journaling?  

Coach Logan James: “Athletes may stop journaling because they feel they aren’t having success. That in turn can cause them to feel they have nothing worth writing about. I have found, it is in these moments, that journaling is even more beneficial. Or, on the flipside, when athletes have a lot of success, they feel they do not need to continue journaling. Journaling keeps us humble.” 

How to get started with journaling 

To help you get started with journaling, here are some valuable tips:  

  1. Choose your medium: Decide whether you prefer pen and paper or a digital platform. 
  1. Establish a routine: Set aside dedicated time for journaling, whether it’s in the morning, evening, or another convenient time for you. You can even make it part of your sports ritual.  
  1. Determine your focus: Select a specific theme for your journaling, such as expressing gratitude, setting goals, reflecting on nutrition or tracking your performance and training. 
  1. Be honest and vulnerable: Write authentically, allowing yourself to express your true thoughts, emotions and experiences without any judgment. 

Want to take your journaling practice to the next level? Unlock your potential with IMG Academy+ coaching. Through personalized 1:1 live coaching sessions, IMG’s experienced coaches will guide you step-by-step through the journaling process, empowering you to make the most of your practices and elevate your performance. Embrace the power of journaling with IMG Academy+ and experience the positive impact it can have on your athletic journey. 

NCSA’s 5-Minute Athlete Journal

At NCSA, we’re all about helping you become the best version of yourself, both on and off the field. That’s why we’ve created something special: NCSA’s 5-Minute Athlete Journal. It’s a tool designed to support your personal and athletic growth in – you guessed it – five minutes a day.  

By utilizing our sheet, you’ll be able to enhance your self-awareness, show daily gratitude, set meaningful goals and track your progress. It’s time to unleash your full potential and discover how an athlete journal can empower you on your journey.  

Download NCSA’s 5-Minute Athlete Journal sheet >>>  

Download NCSA's 5 minute athlete journal

Can journaling help athletes overcome competition anxiety?

Absolutely! Journaling can be a game-changer when it comes to overcoming competition anxiety. By putting your thoughts and emotions on paper, you create a safe space to explore and understand what triggers your anxiety. Through reflection, you can develop effective coping strategies and cultivate a positive mindset. 

Can journaling help athletes who are struggling with an injury?

Journaling can be a powerful tool for athletes dealing with an injury. It offers a way to express your emotions, track your progress and set goals. By documenting your journey, you regain a sense of control and find motivation to overcome the challenges – helping you come back stronger than ever.