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Monday, September 8, 2014

How To Balance Sports And School

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You don't! Done. Have a nice day...

Okay... That probably doesn't satisfy you very much. I get it. You want to know how you can manage playing the sport you love while not sucking your way through class. It is possible. Any student can have amazing grades while competing in sports. (Or any student can be amazing at sports and still have good grades.) The problem is not with students not having enough time (usually.) I'll tell you how you can do it but there is an important point I have to hint at first. The problem is the attempt to balance them at all. Trying to balance sports and school leads most students down the wrong path.

Give Up The Balance

This is going to sound completely unrelated but I think it will help make my point.

In the last few decades mothers (and fathers to some extent) have been bombarded with bull about being perfect at everything. A hundred years ago, most woman aimed to be a good wife and mother. Today, it's wildly different. Most women are expected to be great mothers, amazing wives, absolutely gorgeous, fantastic employees, and make it look easy the whole time. Naturally though, that's completely impossible.

Mothers often work to try and balance all these aspects of their life to meet that cliche. The sad fact that they're humans and only have so much time in the day means they usually fail. Instead of being great at everything they end up being okay and barely passable at everything. Instead of kicking ass they spend their time trying to keep their head barely above acceptable.

Do you get how this relates to you yet?

You can't be an amazing student in every subject, a great athlete, a good friend, the slightest bit happy, and do everything else in the world too. Most students drag themselves into the ground trying to perfect everything. Instead of actually succeeding they just lead themselves into being completely depressed about their life. That, of course, just makes everything worse.

Stop trying to be perfect.

You will fail.

You can be damn good at everything but don't lose sight of reality. You only have so much time in a day. Once you accept that you can learn to use that time right.

Balancing is not your goal. Your goal needs to be prioritizing.

Priorities Beat Balance

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So, what are you looking to do with your schooling and sports experience?

You need to understand your goals with school and sports. If you're looking to become a professional athlete then unless you're naturally gifted, you'll never be good enough to compete while maintaining perfect grades. If you want to play sports professionally, you need to prioritize sports over school.

Of course, most students have the opposite problem. If you're not planning on making a career out of sports then make school a priority over sports. Lets face it. This is what most students should be doing. Unless you're in the tiny minority of amazing athletes, you shouldn't be planning a professional sports career. Don't fight against genetics. It's no fun. (Then again, it's your life.)

Well... If you're like most students you're thinking, “well... I'd like to keep my options open. I shouldn't set one priority over the other....” NOOOOOOOOOOO!! STOP! I'm serious. Give up that balance thought.

Priorities are way more effective than attempts balance. Balance is like making up a pretend equation to solve your problems. There is no effective way to measure whether you're putting enough time into anything. Your decisions will usually come down to your emotional state.

Priorities are tiebreakers. Lets say you're doing good in school and in sports but tomorrow you have a big game and a big test. You have one night to prepare for them both. The average student will prepare for each one of them about half the time. There are major problems with that strategy.

First of all, it takes time to “get in the zone” with your studying or practice. You need to grab your sports equipment. Go to the field. Practice. Go home. Take a shower. You need to pull out your textbook. You need to try and focus. You need to study. Then you go to bed. Notice how only two of those things listed are productive (studying and practicing.) Prep is unproductive. Picking both tasks in the same night makes you double the prep and reduce the productive time.

Second, most of your improvements won't come from study and practice time. It will come from the time you spend thinking about it afterwards. If after practicing, you study, your brain won't get to think about practice. Most of this is not conscious. (Ever lay in bed at night mindlessly thinking about the sport you were playing. That's productive, even if you're not trying to make it productive.)

If you give up balance and use priorities it all simplifies. The priority will win every time. That will allow you to excel at the priority.

But I'll Fail At The Non-Priority!

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Setting a priority doesn't mean you have to completely give up your non-priority. If you choose to try and become a professional athlete, you don't have to put grades too far below your sport. If you spend 10 hours a week practicing your sport, you can spend 9 hours a week studying (theoretically that is. In reality, that much studying is usually idiotic. Be sure to read my blog for a while if you doubt that.)

Priorities aren't about ignoring your non-priorities. They're about simplifying your decisions when your decisions become difficult. Most decisions don't have to be difficult.

Even if you put full effort into becoming an athlete, you'd still have plenty of time that you couldn't spend working at that goal. During those times, you can study. You'll injure yourself if you play your sport too often. You'll just hinder you studying if you study too long. (Studies show students learn less effectively as they study more.)

Notice how both activities have their own limiting factors. You don't need to balance them. You just need to let them balance themselves after setting your priorities.

There may be times you need to change your priority. That's alright. Change it regularly if you emotionally need to (or if you need to make the grade for sports qualifications.) Just remember to let one relax every time you feel the need to tighten up with the other. Without this mentality you'll constantly be trying to drive yourself into the ground with balance.

Don't try to balance school and sports. You'll usually get much farther in both areas of your life if you make one of them a priority over the other. You only have so much time in the day. You need to make sure you're using it on what's important to you as much as practically possible.

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