Being a high school student-athlete can be very challenging because of the enormous time demands of both academics and athletics. The pressure is compounded when the expectations are high for you to perform well in both areas. In addition, your peers expect you to still be a part of everything happening on the social front.
So how do you make it all work? When thinking about time and how to maximize it, I rely on this quote from Stephen Covey, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
While I don’t know the order of your priorities, I’m going to go in what I believe to be a logical order and provide some tips about how to simplify your schedule so you can be focused in the classroom and on the field.
At this point in your career, your family knows how important football is to you and has probably avoided major trips in the fall. However, if there are plans that conflict with your weekend football obligations, those need to be communicated to your coach. How your coach handles that conflict is up to him. However, if he knows about it sooner, the better chance you have to not miss any game time if that is a consequence within your program.
Additionally, if a family emergency comes up, please be the one to communicate it to your coach. Telling a friend to tell your coach rarely works out. Your coach can help you if needed, but wants to be “in the know.”
Never forget you are a STUDENT-athlete. Your long term future in football is always one play away from changing drastically. While it may not be “fun” to deal with school, it does need to take priority with your time.
Decide each night how much time you need to study. That amount of time will be dependent on your post practice travel home and dinner. Be honest about how long those things take. Next, block off the greatest amount of time for the class you need the most help with. The tendency is for kids to avoid the tough stuff and hope it goes away. That rarely works. Devote time early and often to making sure the tough classes don’t become a distraction.
It is important to remember that while cramming is a strategy, it isn’t a very good one. Studies show that getting more sleep before tests is more effective than cramming. If you study daily for short increments of time and allow time to get to bed early, your scores should not be an issue.
While this is not a “scheduling” recommendation, consider sitting in the front of class and turning your phone off. You’ll be amazed by the results.
If you’re lucky enough to be in the recruiting process, notify your coach if you are taking any visits. Again, different programs have different weekend obligations. Work with your coach and don’t assume that you are free to leave just because you have a visit.
Film time should come AFTER study time. But when you think about your normal day, with school, practice, dinner and studying, there may not be a lot of time left. The longer I’ve been coaching, I’ve seen that more film watching doesn’t mean you’ll play better. It is about what you watch and how deliberate you are with interpreting what the film is showing you.
Rather than watching whole games, plan on watching different situations for 3-4 minutes at a time (1st down, 2nd and long, 3rd and short, goal line, red zone are just a few examples). Those are typically what you need to be prepared for the next day in practice and on Friday nights. If you can narrow down what you’re looking for in those situations, you’ll be able to play faster without a ton of time invested each night.
The distractions of social life do not stop during the season. In fact, they typically increase because the Friday night football game becomes the major social event of the weekend. The reason it is (or should be) the focus is because you are expected to win. If you’re worried about the social side and not what you need to do to help your team, everyone will be disappointed.
While you may find it hard to block off friend time, my recommendation would be to devote time to blocking OUT your friends. When you’re in class, be focused on learning. When its time to be studying, turn your phone or notifications off. When you’re studying film, same story.
I realize there is this perpetual “fear of missing out”, but as a leader your vision has to be long term, not short term. When you look back on your career, student or athlete side, do you think you’re going to regret the snapchats you didn’t see or the opportunities to get a higher GPA or win on Friday night?
In reply to “what will my friends say?”, I would tell you they don’t understand because they didn’t commit to football and all the sacrifice that goes with it. Don’t expect them to feel the same way you do, just ask them to respect your choices.
I hope these tips will help you improve your success in the classroom and on the field. The “risk of leadership” is not easy, but the reward for doing things the right way is well worth it!