How to Thrive at Being a NCAA Division III College Student-Athlete

One of the most common questions I get on a recruiting visit to campus from prospective student-athletes and their families is, “How difficult is it to manage it all?”

One thing is for sure: student-athletes will have more to manage than those not involved in such a major co-curricular activity at this high level. But, the great thing is, YES, they can handle it! The first few weeks of their first-year will be difficult to start, but they become great at it fast. That is, if they make the right choices! The school-sport balance will be different for each student based on their organizational skills coming into college and how ambitious they are to be successful in all areas of their lives.

What’s Involved

Each sport will have a no-contact period (summer) along with a pre-season and in-season time based on the 19-22 weeks the NCAA allows college coaches to have athletically-related contact with Division III student-athletes. A lot of sports have split seasons where some practice and one date of competition is allowed (i.e. like baseball and softball have five weeks of practice and one live play-date in the fall but the majority of their season will be in the spring).

At the slowest time of the year, a student-athlete will be devoting around 8-10 hours a week for strength, conditioning, and working on sport-skills on their own with their teammates. At the busiest time of year, in the middle of their competitive season, a student-athlete may spend up to 30-40 hours in their sport per week. Of course, on bus trips, studying and sleep are always encouraged so not all of these hours include athletic-related activity.

How to Manage Academics

In terms of academic planning, students will have their faculty advisor to consult with about their class schedules each semester. They will also be able to use their coaches in terms of how to plan a schedule where they can be successful both in and out of the classroom. For example, a first-year may have four different times/options they can register to take a 100-level Spanish course, their coach can help them look at the game schedule ahead to plan the best time to take this course. Usually student-athletes are best served to take as many morning classes as possible. Also, from time-to-time, student-athletes will need to miss a class for away contests. Communication ahead of time with each professor is very important to coordinate a missed class. Professors are great to work with to make alternative arrangements as long as forward thinking and communication occurs.

Focus on Your Needs

Thriving in college as a student-athlete definitely includes staying healthy and taking care of yourself. This includes eating right, sleeping 7-8 hours each evening, not sharing water bottles, and limiting time on things that take away from your ability to fully engage in the present moment with your friends and teammates on cell phones, social media, and playing video games.