How to Maintain Balance Between Athletics and Academics in College

March 25, 2013 | Davie Carmichael

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The dual roles of an NCAA student-athlete make it a challenge to balance responsibilities for academics and athletics. With equally compelling demands, it can be difficult to prioritize in a way that sustains both without neglecting or short-changing either. The pressures of elite collegiate athletic competition coupled with high academic expectations require student-athletes to construct personal game plans that help them meet the obligations of both disciplines. (Learn the truth about being a college athlete from NFL fullback Michael Robinson.) Developing good organizational habits helps student-athletes execute their game plans, manage their tasks and responsibilities, and be successful in class and on the field.

Apply lessons on the field to lessons in the classroom

When setting up a schedule, it's important to assess strengths and weaknesses. Successful athletes assign more time to improve areas of weakness. The same strategy applies to academic work. By working to cure academic deficiencies and improve skill sets, they can move through troubling tasks more efficiently and allocate time to things in which they excel. Many principles of learning translate from success on the field to success in the classroom. Student-athletes should adopt and implement them in their academic game plans to stay one step ahead. (Learn about academic pitfalls athletes often face.)

Make the most of your support network

NCAA student-athletes have built-in support networks when they get to college—their teammates, coaches and athletic staff as well as faculty advisers. These people hold student-athletes accountable to high standards of performance and help them along the way with encouragement and guidance. It is ultimately the student-athlete's responsibility to make academic advancement a priority; however, coaches are there to supervise and lead you in the right direction. Successful student-athletes maximize their support networks, listen to their coaches and teachers and foster healthy relationships with them. (Learn more about how to use your support network.)


Early is on time; on time is late. Following this guideline will impel student-athletes to prepare for each class and practice, and to ensure that they get the most out of each course and training session. Most classes and practices require preparation, and running late only sets you back. Athletes understand the value of physical preparation for the weight room and the practice field. The more time they take to prepare, the more competitive they become. This same principle applies to studying for exams and completing homework assignments.

Communicate absences in advance

To productively manage classes missed during athletic travel, student-athletes should communicate with their teachers in advance. At the beginning of each semester, meet with your teachers and provide them with your  team travel schedule and game dates. As the dates get closer, work with your teachers to determine how you can make up missed classwork and stay on top of your assignments. Traveling for athletics can make it difficult for student-athletes maintain their routines. But you cannot blow off your academic obligations. Take study materials and homework on the road with you.

As part of its mission, the NCAA has a commitment to academics. Student-athletes' successes in the classroom are vital to fulfilling this mission. The NCAA aims to "integrate athletics into the fabric of higher education" and pledges to "help student-athletes achieve their academic goals as well as their athletic goals."

David Carmichael
- David Carmichael is the head coach of the men's STORM soccer program at Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio. A native of Scotland, he earned...
David Carmichael
- David Carmichael is the head coach of the men's STORM soccer program at Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio. A native of Scotland, he earned...
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