By: Rachel Fenton
Sometimes being a talented athlete can seem to inherently contradict academic success. The closer you get to college, the greater the pressure you face to play at your very best, which can mean a schedule packed full of practices and training. With so much time and effort spent on athletics, academic rigor can feel like an unnecessary extra stressor if you think that your greatest selling point is your athletic performance. At Parros College Planning, we work hard to counter that myth by helping young athletes see the importance of their potential as students and translate their athletic skills to their academic work.
STUDENT OR ATHLETE?
“I always gave 100% both on the field and in the classroom,” Pastoor says. “Since I started playing baseball I’ve always wanted to play in college, and baseball is such a big part of my life that I can’t imagine not having another four years of it. Academically, I have been pushed by myself, my parents, and my peers to achieve as much as possible. I never really felt that I had to choose between baseball and my academics; I was always able to pursue both to their fullest.”
Unfortunately, many students and athletes don’t feel this way, though the two are much more fundamentally intertwined than one might think. The key to this kind of success is in recognizing the valuable skills you use in athletics and finding a strategy to translate them to your schoolwork. These fundamental skills will be important for the rest of your life, so identifying your strengths and figuring out how to apply them to different situations is a good exercise that will help you no matter what you do.
THE BALANCING ACT
“Balancing school and baseball was most difficult during the spring, when I had baseball games and practices every weekday,” says Pastoor. “On days when I had games I wasn’t home from 7:00 AM to anywhere from 7:00 to 9:00 PM, when I would have to eat dinner, do my homework, and generally go straight to bed.”
Long, 12+ hour days are not uncommon among high school students involved in extracurricular activities, and it is important that they don’t feel as though they have to choose between school, athletics, and basic self-care. Starting to form good time management habits is essential for high school, college and beyond.
“What I found most helpful during this time was staying as productive as possible during school hours,” Pastoor notes. “Most days, I had work time during one or more classes, and I made sure not to waste this. When playing a sport and taking multiple AP classes, procrastination is not an option.”
COLLEGE SELECTION AND SELECTIVITY
Pastoor’s intense focus and drive allowed him to excel both academically and in baseball. Realistically, not every player will make it or even want to make it as a professional athlete, so it is crucial that you have a long term plan for an alternative career path.
“The way I looked for a college was absolutely academics first,” Pastoor reflects. “I attended a Colleges That Change Lives seminar with my father and that is where I found most of the schools that I ended up contacting about baseball. Basically, I found schools that were an academic fit, and then figured out which ones I had an opportunity to play baseball at.”
Colleges and recruiters want the full package and this means that to be a top contender, you need to demonstrate your ability to excel in academics just as much as athletics. In addition to this, you need to prepare yourself for the school/play balancing act that will intensify once you get to college.
“Academics come first,” Pastoor advises. “Find schools that will provide you with the best education possible, and the athletic opportunities will follow.”
An athlete’s future is always unclear, so it is crucial that a student athlete is equipped with an academic game plan as they venture into both college sports and academics. Beyond eligibility and being attractive to high caliber institutions with respected sports teams, academic success can lead to scholarships, career direction, and a wealth of opportunity. By giving 100% to both academics and athletics, Pastoor positioned himself to be eligible for both categories of scholarships, but in the end it was his academic merit that rewarded him with a full ride.
“With such a busy schedule, it can become tempting to choose athletics (or sleep) over academics. It’s always important to remember that in five or ten years, it won’t matter what you did on the field but in the classroom.”