BLOG: How To Succeed In The Classroom As A College Student-Athlete In The USA
By Joe Cleary (Former NCAA College Coach)
After coaching college soccer for ten years, I made a career pivot to the academic side of higher education. Along with my current position as an academic success advisor, I also work part-time as a consultant with SRUSA. In my early career as a college coach, I also served as an athletic tutor for the University of Wyoming football, basketball, and wrestling teams. Finally, I have almost always been the academic coordinator of programs that I have been a part of, programs that have consistently had successful team and individual academic records. I have also seen individuals fail to be successful in the classroom as student-athletes. Being successful in the classroom is not easy, but it is entirely possible no matter how good of a student you consider yourself. This blog is for current and future student-athletes, and I hope you can take some good advice from it.
Being present means more than just going to class, though that is a huge part of being a successful college student. Being present means attending every class (EVERY CLASS), and being a positive addition to the classroom environment. Being present means turning things in on time, asking/answering questions, and listening/reading instructions from your instructor. If you do those things, but struggle on exams and assignments, your instructor will be more likely to assist you in achieving what you want to achieve. Being present matters, because it shows that you care.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
As a student-athlete, your goal is to be at your peak performance on the field during the season. The other thing that needs to be at its peak during the season is your communication skills. You may miss classes due to travel and games, communicate often with your instructors well in advance of the missed class and after the missed class. You may carry a heavy course load, communicate to your coaching staff or academic advisors if things start to become overwhelming or you start to fall behind. Finally, communicate with your peers and classmates about what you have going on in your classes, find individuals that will help remind you when things are due and help hold you accountable to studying for exams and completing assignments.
Use Your Resources
Every school, regardless of size, division, academic standards, etc. has resources to help their students. Some schools may have more resources than others, and some may even have resources solely for the use of student-athletes. Examples of resources in colleges include but are not limited to study tables, tutors, academic advisors, student support programs, and disability accommodations. Sometimes, often in the case of the teams I coached, your best resources are going to be your teammates and/or coaches. Study with your teammates taking the same classes as you, seek advice from upperclassmen on which instructor to take or which semester to take a course in, ask your coach to proofread something for you, etc. If you try everything and still find yourself struggling, talk to your coach or your advisor, unfortunately learning disabilities can go undiagnosed until college. There are programs (TRIO) and accommodations (more time on tests) at many universities for students with struggles, but you will never know if you never seek to use your resources.
Take Action Early
If you are struggling with a course at the beginning of the semester, but you wait to do anything about it until the week before final exams, it is too late. If you don’t know what courses you need to take, in what order and you wait until your junior year to start asking, it is too late. Take action on your education early, know what is going on, and ask questions about your future.
At the end of the day, all of the advice boils down to one thing, if you are a good soccer player it is because you combined being gifted athletically with an investment of time, energy, and emotion. If you have made it into college, you are a good student, and you have to combine your gift of intelligence with an investment of time, energy, and emotion into school as well. You may fail, you may make mistakes, but your investment won’t go unnoticed and that is where others will help pick you up or push you along. This is no different than soccer. Being successful on the field and in the classroom is difficult, but year after year there are incredible soccer players that do both. You can be one of those players if you invest properly.