Excelling as a Baseball Student-athlete
If you’ve ever watched college athletics on television, chances are you’ve seen the commercials that the NCAA has been running for a number of years. You know the ones — they feature young men and women explaining that most student-athletes will be “going pro” in something besides sports. Now, between the Major Leagues and the numerous levels of Minor Leagues, baseball employs more professional players than most any other sport. Despite this, there is a great deal of validity to the NCAA’s message, as only a small percentage of college players will have the chance to play professionally.
If you find yourself among the unfortunate majority whose playing careers end with their collegiate eligibility, first of all, be proud! Simply making it this far to play college baseball is a tremendous accomplishment. Second, you should be aware that after school ends, your professional prospects will depend far more on your success as a student than as an athlete.
Playing college sports is a huge time commitment, and unless you learn to manage that time effectively, it will be difficult to succeed on the field or in the classroom. Follow these guidelines, and hopefully, in a few years you will conclude your tenure as a student-athlete with some life-long memories and a college diploma to boot.
Establish Your Priorities
Life as a college student is filled with temptation. Particularly if you live on campus, there will virtually always be opportunities for distraction. And while parties, video games, and midnight trips to the drive-thru can provide a welcome break, you simply won’t always have time to fit in everything you want to do, and still keep up with your responsibilities. So how do you know which leisure activities you can afford to partake in without neglecting your schoolwork or sacrificing your baseball training?
The key is to establish your priorities, and stick to them. As long as you’re aware of what’s truly important, you’ll likely manage to juggle even the busiest collegiate schedule. Here’s an example of an appropriate priority list for a college baseball player:
- Class and schoolwork
- Baseball (this includes practices, games, meetings, weight training, etc.)
- Sleep (you need sufficient rest in order to maintain the top two priorities.)
- Relationships with friends, girlfriends, etc.
- Leisure activities
Organize Your Schedule
The next step toward success as a student-athlete is figuring out when to accomplish all the items on your priority list. In most cases, the easiest part(s) to manage will be your baseball obligations, although it’s also likely that baseball will take up the largest chunk of your time. Whether you play ball at Arizona State or a local junior college, you will have responsibilities to your team nearly every day of the week. Typically, your coaches will give you detailed schedules of your games, practices, scrimmages, meetings, and weight training, so that you’ll always know when and where you have to be.
The struggle with managing your schedule comes outside of baseball. No one is policing how you spend the rest of your time, so it’s entirely up to you to make sure you prioritize your non-baseball life. The best way to do this is to create a master schedule. In addition to your baseball activities, try to fill it with everything else you need to keep track of, as well as important dates you want to remember. Here are some examples of what your master schedule might include:
- Your class schedule
- Dates of tests and exams
- Due dates for papers, assignments, and projects
- Scheduled meetings with advisors
- Professors’ office hours
- Deadlines for course registration
- Doctor/dentist appointments
- Friends’ and family members’ birthdays
- Vacation dates
Take Your Schoolwork Seriously
As with most other aspects of life, what you get out of your college experience will depend on what you put into it. It’s okay if you don’t like school as much as playing baseball; most of your teammates will probably feel the same way. But just like on the baseball field, your success in the classroom will be largely based on your effort level. Ultimately, you cannot treat school like a chore and expect to be a good student.
This comes more naturally to some than others, and it doesn’t make you a bad student if you’re more excited for game day than English class. However, if you take your schoolwork seriously, then others will take you seriously as a student. There are three steps you can (and should) take that will help you successfully juggle school with your time commitments to the baseball team.
Go to Class
If this sounds obvious to you, then you’re on the right track. Attending every class is the easiest way to put yourself in a position for good grades. And yet, it can be the most difficult part of life as a student-athlete. You will undoubtedly be faced with the temptation of getting a few extra hours of sleep or going to the beach with your friends instead of dragging your tired body to class in the morning. And since no one is going to put you in detention for cutting biology, it may seem like a consequence-free decision.
Do your best to avoid this temptation; missing class will put you behind, and you can’t afford to play catch-up when you’re already trying to manage the demanding schedule that comes with playing college baseball. The last thing you want is to face a suspension for being academically ineligible.
Meet with Your Advisors
One of the perks of playing collegiate sports is that your school will typically assign you an academic advisor to help make sure you’re on track to graduate. You’d be remiss not to utilize this advisor’s expertise. Your advisor can help you put together your class schedule, let you know what courses you need to take, and put you in touch with tutors if you need extra help. In addition, your advisor may be willing to act as an intermediary with your professors if you have to miss class because of games. An advisor is not a luxury that the average college student gets, so take advantage of it by staying in touch with yours on a regular basis.
Communicate with Your Professors
When it comes to your classes and professors, you may unfortunately have to battle the stereotype that athletes are lazy students. Do your best to defy that label from the very beginning of the semester. Go to class, be awake and attentive, and turn in your assignments on time. If you’re concerned about an upcoming test, or you’re struggling to understand the material, communicate with your professors through email and meet with them during their office hours whenever you can manage.
Most professors are more than willing to assist a student who makes the effort to ask for help. Even if the quality of your work is lacking, it’s possible to pass most classes if you do your work and display legitimate interest. Show your professor that you care about the class and that you’re willing to put forth genuine effort.
Playing baseball in college is an outstanding way to prepare yourself for the so-called “real world,” because it forces you to manage a schedule that’s as busy and demanding as anything you’re likely to face in the professional realm. Your time as an athlete will provide you with fond memories, and your accomplishments as a student will open doors for the rest of your life. Regardless of your batting average, your ERA, or even your team’s record, leaving college with a degree is what makes you a successful student-athlete.