I’ll never forget my first week of college. My mom dropped me off at the airport, early on an August morning, with 15 strangers, boarding a flight to the Dominican Republic for a mission trip.
Some might argue that this doesn’t count as my first, real week, but I beg to differ. As a college athlete, my experience started a week before classes, playing basketball in a foreign country, with a group of strangers, who later, I would consider not only my teammates but my best friends.
Being a college athlete means being different. It means having different experiences, more responsibility and being held to a higher standard.
As I navigated my first week in international waters (quite literally), I realized I needed a plan of action.
Living as a student-athlete is a constant balancing act. So, I’ve put together a list of the top five things I focus on to keep my life balanced.
1. ALWAYS PLAN AHEAD
Between practices, games, homework assignments, exams, social life, eating, sleeping and who knows what, it’s important to plan and prioritize what needs to be done.
My Tip: To-do lists are the best when it comes to prioritizing assignments and due dates.
2. WRITE IT DOWN
It’s not good enough to simply think about what needs to be done. It’s important to write it down to make sure you know where and when you need to be places.
My Tip: Google Calendar is super easy to use and especially fun for those who love color coordinating. My calendar is a vibrant, visual reminder that keeps me on track.
3. MAKE FUEL A PRIORITY
You woke up late, you’re rushing to your morning class and you don’t have time to eat. You go from class to class, working and studying, and suddenly, it’s 3 p.m. and time for practice, but you haven’t eaten anything. Trust me, I’ve been there, nearly blacking out, running up the court, while my stomach growls for the whole gym to hear. Eating the right fuel and drinking enough water is beyond important. You’re a college athlete pushing your body to its limits, you must support it.
My Tip: Always stock your backpack with granola bars (or your favorite healthy snack) to save you on the craziest of days.
4. GET YOUR Z’S
As a college athlete, your days are filled from start to finish; they are all-together exhausting. You think that giving up sleep will help you accomplish all the things you need, but truth is, that’s the worst idea. If you don’t get rest and treat your body right, it will all catch up to you and you’ll end up crashing.
My Tip: Choose sleep. It seems simple, but when friends and Netflix and half-off apps are all calling your name, evaluate your energy and prioritize sleep when you need it.
5. REMEMBER TO HAVE FUN
You’re a collegiate athlete, you’ve worked your whole life to get to where you are. Enjoy it! It’s a time you’ll never get to live again, a time that many wish they had—don’t take it for granted. When preseason sprints have you seeing stars, remember your blessings and the opportunity you have to compete for your university, and most of all, Christ.
My Tip: Pray. In my most stressful times, I take a moment to recognize and thank God for all that is good in my life.
As I look back on my Cornerstone career, I see these simple tips helping me time and time again. I think if I had known these from the start, it would have saved my parents from a number of the unnecessary meltdown calls they received.
Which reminds me, bonus tip number six, parents are the best. When it seems like there’s no possible way to balance everything, I guarantee they have some great advice.