For many college athletes, a top priority is producing quality game time performances. This often requires a strict schedule in order to dedicate many hours of their life to practicing and improving.
However, grades and games call for a major portion of time and attention from an athlete, and many can face severe stress.
“Being a student athlete is stressful. There have been many nights when I had to stay up late studying before an early morning practice,” said senior water polo player and biology major Mathew Puig. “I, personally, have a lot of anxiety issues and if I did not reach out for help, I would not have been able to play college water polo.”
In a sport as demanding as cheer, Joelle C. Svendsen, junior business administration major and backspot on the cheer squad, finds that in her sport the best stress relief often comes from her coaches’ encouraging words.
“Many times when the routine is being hit over and over and over again, people start to mess up because they just start overthinking things,” she said. “Our coaches tell us constantly, ‘We love you guys no matter what’ and ‘Just breathe, focus and brains on.’”
A particularly demanding season for collegiate cheerleaders are the eight months leading up to the national championships in Daytona Beach, Fla.
“The whole year from September until May has been focused on this one performance in Florida,” Svendsen said. “One wobble in a stunt or one motion off in the routine could ruin it for all of the women and coaches who have been working on this routine for hundreds of hours. That’s a lot of pressure. Many can not even talk about it outside of cheer because they get so nervous.”
Eating and workout disorders have become notorious problems for trainers to be cautious of in their athletes, but may often mask deeper underlying issues such as stress and fatigue.
“When an athlete is feeling extremely stressed to the point where it is affecting their health, they often think it is normal,” Puig said. “I think stress just comes with territory for student athletes but it can too often be overlooked.”
A significant amount of team time and large amounts of homework are crammed into the few hours athletes have outside of classes. This often makes late nights or early mornings finishing homework unavoidable, even with the most efficient time management.
When an athlete is able to carve out enough time in their schedule, it allows them to have more time to relax and destress from the constant pressure.
“I have learned to better manage my time, and that allows myself more time to do the things necessary to cope with stress,” Puig said.
It is important for college athletes to reach out for help when feeling overwhelmed and enjoy their time at school. Finding ways to maintain excellence and regularity in both school and sport may be the key in enabling them to have a healthy and productive college experience.