Balancing school and sports for a college athlete

John Weinstein, a junior men’s soccer player at American University, said he struggled during his first year of college balancing the intense schedule of being an athlete with keeping up with his major.

“You have to be able to prioritize and decide whether you should go out with friends or use [the time] to study when you know you have practice the next day,” Weinstein said.

College athletes across the country face many of the same challenges that Weinstein encountered in his first year. Being a student-athlete is a full-time job. So is being a college student. Trying to juggle academics and athletics can be very difficult.

Colleges have programs to help students meet this challenge. Free academic support such as individual counseling, guided study and peer tutoring is available for athletes. Academic progress reports are distributed twice a year. Study Hall is also made mandatory for all incoming freshmen to help ease the adjustment from high school to college.

Along with the academic support, coaches make a life-skills program mandatory for all sport participants. The program includes tutoring, etiquette dinners, studying, how to pay taxes and mortgage to prepare them for life after college.

“The life-skills program tries to build a sense of community between the players” said Keith Gill, athletic director at American University.

Between traveling, games, practices and team activities, time management is key.  Student-atlhetes must give up some opportunities that they may of had using the time to join clubs or extra curricular activities. But being an athlete has its perks: playing in front of crowds, free travel and possible media exposure.

But to get these perks, students must first be among the best in their sports.¬†“It is really hard to be an athlete at college level,” Gill said.

Sports also puts students in a position to receive full scholarships and have the strong support structure throughout their college experience.

“If the students didn’t have sports they wouldn’t have that push,” said Zac Powell, a rising sophomore at American University who works in the athletic department.

Athletes not only face pressure to get good grades but also to win in their sports.

“If you don’t win, in my opinion you might as well be in the arts and sciences,” Gill said.

Powell said student-athletes have among the highest grade point averages at the university.

Athletics can teach students leadership, teamwork, overcoming adversity and can help them develop a strong work ethic.

“Nothing is purely terrible or purely great; its all in context,” Gill said.

Weinstein managed to balance sports and his academics and continued through his sophomore and junior year as a student-athlete.

He added: “The skills learned from being involved in athletics have prepared me for the professional world.”