Written by Submitted by Erika Taylor, '24

Submitted by Erika Taylor, ’24 

Many of the students who attend University of the Cumberlands are student-athletes. Most have been athletes for several years before coming to college, but for others it is their first time. Regardless, it is a learning curve for incoming students because balancing sports and schoolwork in college is vastly different than doing so in high school. There are many more responsibilities in college, such as getting yourself to practice and games, class at various times, and the temptations of being with your friends. 

I understand the struggle. I’m on the bowling team at Cumberlands, and, coming into college, I was extremely nervous about having to handle classes and bowling without the help of my parents, especially when I did not know anyone coming in. When I was given the opportunity to hang out with my team, I would take them up on it every time, whether I had class or homework to complete. I sat on the side of not being able to manage my time at all my freshman and part of my sophomore year. I made great friends through that, which I’m grateful for. But I also put myself in a situation where I was not able to graduate this past spring with the rest of the students I came into the school with. No, it is not the only reason (considering I changed my major four times before the end of my sophomore year), but always choosing social time over schoolwork is a big reason. 

I made these mistakes, but you do not have to. Balancing life as a student athlete is not as difficult as it seems, it just took me a while to figure out how to juggle it all. The biggest piece of advice I can give anyone who wants to be an athlete but still graduate on time is to make school a priority. I know it’s cliché, but it’s true. If the schoolwork is done, everything else will fall into place. As a bonus, you won’t have the stress of any projects hovering over you while you’re out with friends, and that’s a relief, trust me. 

If you find yourself struggling through your classes or your sport, there is no shame in asking for help. There are always people in your corner wanting to see you succeed in your college experience. Whether this be teammates, friends, professors, or family, it is always good to know your resources, and to be comfortable using them when you need to. Along with this, don’t be afraid to talk to your professors if a day comes that you must miss class for a game or tournament. Most of the time, professors are understanding and willing to work with you when you are open about your sports schedule from the start. If you want to be extra prepared, be sure to get contact information from one or more of your classmates in every class who aren’t on your athletic team. This ensures that, even when you’re out of town for a match, you’ll be able to text someone and get notes from the class you missed. This is a game-changer. 

Another tip I want to leave you with is that your mind and body know their limits, and they will eventually correlate with each other, if you listen to them. Practices and class can be equally exhausting, just in much different ways – practices are usually more physically demanding, and classes require more mental energy. Listen to both your mind and your body and work with what energy you have as you have it. This is not a way of me saying, “Do not even try to do homework if you are mentally exhausted, just skip it.” What I’m saying is, work on what you can as you’re able. Use any down time you have. Along those lines, it’s important to prioritize and schedule your work. Having a plan (and the discipline to stick to it) can make all the difference in the world.

Being a student-athlete is one of the hardest things a person can do in college, but also the most rewarding. My four years in college have been the best four years of my life, and I know it will be the same for you. The friendships and memories you make will stay with you forever, you just have to make sure you study hard and graduate!