It’s that time of year again to start getting ready to go back to school, and for a new cheerleading season to start! Congrats on making the squad this year! As an athlete, you have a very busy year ahead of you. This month’s Back to School blog series will help you define what it means to be an athlete, get you ready for the season and help you care for your cheerleading gear. Check back every Wednesday for a new article! How To Balance Life As An Athlete Joining a sport team is a big commitment, and can sometimes make your life complicated and stressful, but you’ll also find that it comes with heaps of rewards like new friends and a healthy body and mind! Before the new school year gets started, you should start thinking about what your schedule will look like and prioritizing your responsibilities. Your schedule is a lot like your cheerleading stunts – learning effective techniques for balance is critical! Time is one of the world’s most valuable commodities, but as a student and an athlete (new word mash-up alert: studenthlete!!), you aren’t going to have much of it to spare. With a little effort and organization though, you’ll find that you are able to maximize the time that you do have. On The Books Here are some of the most common activities that a studenthlete may have to juggle during the season: Regular classes Homework and studying Social activities (including school and non-school events) Practice Extra conditioning (before or after practice, or on your own time) Games Competitions Work In addition to that, studenthletes must also maintain a minimum grade point average, and some are required to maintain a certain weight (though this is most common in wrestling). Hopefully you didn’t get wide-eyed or teary looking at that list! It might look intimidating, but each season is successfully managed by millions of studenthletes every year. How do they do it? I’ll admit that I didn’t talk to all of them, but I’m willing to bet they follow these guidelines: Communication Almost everywhere you look, there is someone that can help you manage and organize your schedule. Keep your family up to speed on what you have going on, including any older siblings who may have gone through similar situations. Make an appointment with your school counselor early in the season. You can tell them your goals and expectations for the season and they’ll have a better understanding of how to help you later in the year if you need to turn to them. Reach out to your coach if you are feeling overwhelmed. Your coach is there to push you to be the best athlete you can, but also to help you navigate and overcome life’s obstacles. Pay attention to their advise, and be willing to learn from their experiences. Responsibility Take it! Your schedule is ultimately your own responsibility. If you are tech savvy, use the mobile apps that are available to help you manage your availability and remind you of events. If you prefer to use a planner, get one that will allow you enough space to write in multiple activities for each day. If you are getting overbooked too often, or feeling too tired, cut back on your commitments by saying “no” once in a while. As part of a team, you need to be your strongest so that you can support stunts and prevent yourself and your teammates from suffering injuries. Review everything you have going on, so you can prioritize and regroup yourself. Action Actively use a to-do list. Not only will it keep all of your activities, from practice to personal errands, organized…but it feels soooo good to check things off! Make good use of the time that you do have available. Pay attention in your classes, and take any opportunity you have to complete an assignment. Planning is going to play a huge part in your ability to balance your schedule. Try to have major events, assignments and tests noted ahead of time. If you know when, it will be much easier to figure out how. If you have a big game on Wednesday, but also have an assignment due on Thursday, you’ll know that you need to spend the prior weekend or early weekdays completing that assignment. Chances are you won’t have the time, or energy, to do the assignment after the game. Believe it or not, planning will also help eliminate any extra (and unwanted!) stress. Bonus! Learning how to balance a busy social, athletic and academic life will help you develop time management and self-discipline skills that will benefit you later in life. Planning on being an athlete in college? You can count on a longer season, harder practices and more intense conditioning sessions. You’ll also have a more demanding competition schedule, which means increased travel time. Working through your high school years as a studenthlete will get you in touch with what works for you, so you’ll be ready to conquer the demands of college. Check out the Cheerleader’s Guide To A Successful School Year! How do you keep your season organized and prioritized so that you can meet your personal goals and help your team meet their goals? Leave your tips here for our readers!