The expectations set for student-athletes can go to the extremes. They are expected to keep the pace in class, and then do well in sports at the same time. This sometimes creates an imbalance in how student-athletes go about their priorities. Case in point, Jasmine Harris, assistant professor of sociology at Ursinus College, found evidence that college athletes in men’s football and basketball devote more of their time to sports as opposed to their education. Granted, Harris’ study focused on men’s football and basketball only. But it’s not inconceivable that just as many student soccer players are in the same situation.
Having said that, it is imperative that student-athletes strike a perfect balance between academics and sports. Such balance will ensure excellent performance on both fronts, making the mind stronger, healthier, and more resilient for studying and playing soccer. This benefit, in particular, is understated yet vital, with Maryville University pointing out that there is a strong connection between mental health and learning success. This means that if you aren't looking after yourself both physically and mentally, both your studies and extracurricular activities might suffer. Of course, no one wants any dip in grades or performance, which is why balance should be at the top of your mind. It can be hard, but it is doable, especially if you follow these pointers:
Why you should put your studies first and goalkeeping second
Being a student-athlete, you are a student first, and athlete second. Your education, therefore, must take precedence over sports. Besides, there is incentive for you to do well in school, as you likely won’t play unless you meet certain grade requirements. On a more practical level, studying hard and getting a good education will give you something to fall back on should aiming for a soccer career not work out. Whether it's likely or not, it is a possibility, with USA Today noting how only 2% of 480,000 NCAA student-athletes make it to the professional level. Another point to keep in mind is that professional teams usually only have 2 to 3 goalkeepers in the squad, which means competition for this position tends to be fierce and this can make it more difficult for goalkeepers to turn pro. This is why it is important to have something to fall back on.
How goalkeepers can train smart
Train hard, but be smart about it. Our previous post on ‘The Truth about Training Cardio for Goalkeepers’ illustrates this mantra. If you man the posts, running at a fast pace for long distances is a waste of energy. That’s because you don’t do lots of running on the pitch. What you need to focus on instead, are workouts (e.g., high intensity interval training) that’ll help you have short bursts of energy and do explosive movements. You’ll need to lean on your coaches and trainers for this one, as they’ll know best how to structure your workouts. Knowing how to train properly will allow you to set a dedicated amount of time to both training and studies, while being sure that you're getting progress done in both.
Take advantage of your advantages
Chris Taylor, the former president of Duke’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, shared to The News & Observer that there are innate advantages — readily available tutoring and academic counseling to name just two — to being an athlete at school. These advantages are designed to help you navigate the difficult world of being a student-athlete, whether they're after-class programs or special classes. Needless to say, engage yourself with them when and where necessary.
Don't push too much
Finally, don't run yourself into the ground in your drive to become a pro goalkeeper or soccer player. Pushing yourself too much will only drain you — physically, mentally, and emotionally. In that case, you'll be less than your best, both in class and on the pitch. It is important to know when to take a step back.
By Jessica Brandy