Photo Courtesy: Annie Murphy Paul
1. Time Management
The biggest obstacle for student athletes is the race against the clock. We are on a tight schedule and constantly on-the-go. Managing time between swimming and school is difficult in more ways than one. Figuring out how you are going to prioritize academics and swimming is hectic. Choosing to hang out with friends on Saturday night or to do homework is a common and disciplined choice we must make.
2. Real World Experience
Student athletes have little flexibility within our schedule. In the midst of our busy schedules, we sometimes forget we are on campus to get an education. Fitting in a job or an internship is demanding and at times can get pushed to the back burner.
Our coaches say we need more sleep but finding the time to get it doesn’t come easily. Between swimming, school, and trying to be a “typical” college student, it is hard to get a full eight hours of sleep a night. Sleep deprivation takes a toll on us physically but also mentally. Remaining focused in the pool and classroom becomes even more difficult without proper rest. Getting more sleep sounds like a nice idea, yet fitting it into our schedule isn’t necessarily achievable.
Continually being on-the-go means our nutrition may suffer. When rushing from lifting, swim practice, and to class while trying to fit in a snack or meal puts the focus less on nutrition and more on convenience. Time is the enemy of all, including healthy eating. A quick granola bar or protein shake are a good quick fix, but at times we need more fuel after a tough, long practice. We run our bodies down with training, but it can’t recover without the proper food and nutrition.
5. Social Life
A constant challenge student athletes face is keeping their social lives functioning. Putting twenty or more hours in and out of pools each week is exhausting. Sometimes we just want to do nothing or watch Netflix. Friday nights often consist of going to bed early due to Saturday morning practice or a meet. We should take advantage of every break we get, but our social life tends to suffer because we are often too tired or otherwise occupied. Being the student we want to be in the classroom, the swimmer we want to be in the pool, and the friend we want to be to our peers is a tough equation to solve.
6. Extracurricular Activities
Building a resume can be difficult with our less than accommodating schedules. Taking part in extracurricular activities such as Accounting Club, the School Newspaper, or Animal Rights Club sounds great but swimming tends to get in the way. Meeting times are often scheduled at the same time as practice or on the weekends when meets are planned.
7. Mental health
Staring at a black line on the bottom of a pool six days a week can become monotonous and mentally exhausting. Mental health is a serious issue for many athletes. The stress of swimming, school and personal expectations can become overwhelming. Being able to relieve stresses positively is a major key in any student athlete’s life. Taking a few minutes to breathe, stretch, and refocus can help relieve some of the mental stress and exhaustion caused by being a student athlete.
Feeling like the clock is consistently against you, in and out of the water, can be stressful. Having to do so much in so little time becomes taxing, and many goals seem out of reach. Managing all aspects of being a student athlete is strenuous. We all feel like the world is against us sometimes, but having an outlet to relieve stress is important as well.
9. Managing Relationships
Taking an hour to call your parents doesn’t always fit into the schedule, and we may have so much going on that we often forget. When you do finally see them, it is usually at a swim meet or the little time you spend at home over breaks. Your parents know you love them but finding the time to express your love to them isn’t always easy. The same goes for keeping in touch with your friends from home. Making friends a priority in your life becomes harder and harder as you become more involved in academics and swimming.
10. Representing Your University
The first thing you are taught as a student athlete is that you are held to a higher standard. Every move you make being watched by the press and the university’s pressure to perform can become burdensome. As an individual you represent your entire team and institution, and it is a great responsibility.