Student athletes must have self-discipline, on and off the field, in order to achieve success both academically and athletically. In order to help these students stay on track to graduation and college athletic eligibility, they should be encouraged to value their academic goals as much as their athletic goals.
Most student athletes will have to work as hard, if not harder, on their school performance as they do on improving their game. Educators and parents can offer support by encouraging a variety of positive, healthy behaviors in student athletes.
With busy schedules full of practices, classes, games, and homework—not to mention a high school social life—student athletes need a strict regimen of time management. Student athletes should be encouraged to:
- Plan ahead. Use either a paper or electronic planner to note upcoming dates for quizzes, tests, and homework and project deadlines, as well as scheduled practices and games.
- Use the commute. If you’re not driving, use the ride home from school or practice to get a jumpstart on homework or studying. The same goes for travel to and from away games.
- Unplug. Turn off any possible distractions, such as cell phones and televisions, while doing homework or studying. The fewer the distractions, the faster the work will be completed.
- Protect your time. It’s okay to say no to additional commitments if you’re already too busy. Use your weekends wisely as a time to catch up on last week’s work and get ahead for the coming week.
Developing healthy habits early on is key to protecting a student’s overall physical and mental wellbeing. Student athletes should focus on:
- Sleep. High school students, and especially student athletes, need at least seven to eight hours—preferably nine hours, if possible—of sleep each night. There is a direct correlation between the amount of sleep a student gets and their academic performance.
- Diet. A nutrient-dense diet will help fuel the student athlete’s body throughout the day without relying on vitamins or supplements.
- Stress. Student athletes should be encouraged to ask for help during overwhelming times by talking with a loved one or trusted teacher or school counselor.
Finally, students, parents and educators should use any available resources to stay informed.
Parents should talk with teachers and counselors about graduation requirements to ensure their child is on track with his or her peers. In addition, students who wish to play post-secondary athletics can take advantage of the NCAA’s Eligibility Center, which offers essential information and resources for college-bound student athletes.