From the moment we stepped onto campus, our coaches emphasized time-management as a fundamental building block for success as a student-athlete at Vanderbilt. Depending on the sport, the fall and spring semesters are extremely chaotic based on each sport’s schedules. For soccer, our formal SEC season begins in August and continues until the end of November or early December. Throughout that four-month time period, we have late-night practices, early-morning conditioning, multi-day away games or tournaments. We also have a variety of other time-consuming activities, including individual workout sessions, team meetings and rehab. During the fall season, our soccer training hours are MWF 2:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. and TR 8:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m. To accommodate these practice blocks, we scramble at the end of each semester to find classes that fulfill our academic requirements without conflicting with our strict soccer schedule.
Each athlete then works with his or her assigned academic advisor to generate the best schedule to satisfy both our academic and athletic responsibilities. As such, we’re responsible for organizing our time in a way that allows us to effectively juggle a full course load and a demanding training session; meanwhile, we also have to factor in enough time for homework, recovery treatment, a semblance of a “social” life and, if we’re lucky, a nap. Although the fall semester is far more hectic, the spring semester is not much easier. Without games on the weekends, we do have more flexibility with our free time, but we still have standards to achieve both in the classroom and on the soccer field (or in the weight room). As such, time-management is a critical skill to uphold the student-athlete lifestyle year around.
The athletic coaches and academic advisors understand that college athletics introduced a completely new set of responsibilities to our lives. To help with the jarring transition, every first-year student-athlete is assigned eight hours of study hall to be completed every week—unless noted otherwise by our academic advisors—in the academic facilities within McGugin center. Depending on the athlete’s cumulative GPA at the end of her freshman year, study hall hours are either reduced or eliminated entirely. During the first semester at Vandy, student-athletes must also meet with our advisor once a week to review any upcoming assignments, tests or midterms and create an agenda that describes how we intend to complete our work each day. Yes, these methods were tedious and sometimes more of a chore than they are helpful, but they were also a useful opportunity to practice time-management skills early on in our college careers. Having a quiet place to complete our schoolwork with other student-athletes is an added bonus. Long after freshman year, the skills we developed from mandatory study hall hours and weekly academic meetings remain and help us rise through the ranks of our Vanderbilt education.
Every student-athlete, student, professor, administrator etc., understands the value of time-management. Some people, however, are definitely better than others at honing this particular skill. Nevertheless, I’ve seen from my experience how easily anyone can learn to develop useful time-management strategies tailored to her individual lifestyle. Exemplary time management skills are important for everyone to improve upon in order to succeed in finding a balance in life that ultimately affords us opportunities to both enjoy the things we love while getting work done.