UCL School of Management

13 February 2023

Balancing Athletics and University: A Student's Guide

Being a student-athlete is an annoyingly challenging task. On one hand, you have academic responsibilities, and on the other hand, you have to maintain your athletic capabilities. This can be a tricky balance, especially when you’re competing at a high level or have professional aspirations in your sport. However, with proper planning and time management, you can excel in both areas.  

To add some context, I am a sprinter and wish to compete at the Olympics for 400 metres. I am somewhat close to finishing my first year of university and I have learnt a thing or two about the student-athlete lifestyle. 

First, it’s important to understand the level you’re competing at, including inward honesty on what you may be capable of and why you participate in the sport that you do. If you’re a recreational player, your time commitment will be less than someone who is trying to make it to the professional level. Understanding your level and goals with the sport will help you make an informed decision on how much time you need to dedicate to that sport. 

Next, make a schedule and STICK TO IT! This is a crucial step to balancing your academic and athletic responsibilities. You need to set aside specific times for studying, training, and competing. Make sure to block out the most critical times of the day for you, such as early mornings or late nights, for academic pursuits. I particularly like planning my weeks or days in advance too (e.g. the night before).

Prioritisation is key in this aspect. Make a to-do list and tackle the most pressing items first. This can be difficult when deciding what tasks are a priority but don’t dwell on this for too long and focus on getting things done efficiently. If you have a big exam coming up, make sure to give yourself enough time to study, and if you have a game or competition, make sure to get enough rest and hydration. 

It’s important to communicate with your professors and coaches. Let them know about your athletic and academic commitments and ask for their support. They may be able to adjust deadlines or offer alternative methods of studying, such as online sessions or flexible exam times. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek resources, such as tutors or academic advisors. 

Finally, it’s crucial to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. While it is noted that being a student-athlete may impact your social life (it definitely has for me), do take time where possible for family and close friends.  

In conclusion, being a student-athlete can be challenging, but with proper planning and time management, it’s possible to balance your academic and athletic responsibilities. Just remember to understand your level of competition, make a schedule and stick to it, prioritise your tasks, communicate with your professors and coaches, and take care of yourself physically and mentally. 

Last updated Thursday, 23 March 2023