Updated: Feb 7, 2019
Competing at the collegiate level can be an incredible, life-changing experience. But to get the most out of this opportunity, athletes need to be prepared for a schedule that is quite different from that of their non-athlete peers.
Let me give you a rundown of my typical day on the Stanford Rowing team…
AM 4:45 Alarm goes off, make some oatmeal and a coffee, and head to the team rendezvous point. 5:15 Leave campus to drive to the boathouse. 6:00 Head out on the water for practice #1 of the day. 8:00 Return to the dock, wash off the boats, and load up the vans to head back to campus. 9:00 – 11:00 Head to class!
PM 12:00 Have lunch at the dining hall, maybe take a quick nap. 1:30 – 3:00 More class! 3:15 – 5:45 Head to the team athletics facilities for practice #2 of the day – an indoor erg workout, strength training, or team cross training. 6:00 Have dinner at the dining hall. 6:45 Head to the athletic academic facilities for tutoring, study space, computer access, and academic advising. 8:00 Relax and socialize. 9:00 Go to bed, ready to do it all again!
Were there times I stayed up late to spend time with friends or finish writing a paper? Of course! Were there times I took a long nap and missed an afternoon class? Probably a few more than I should admit. But time management is key if you want to be successful as a student-athlete at the collegiate level.
The NCAA limits “Countable Athletically Related Activities” to 20 hours per week while your team is in season. This includes, but isn’t limited to, actual practice time, required strength training sessions, film review, and competitions. However, the day-to-day schedule of a college athlete includes travel to and from practice facilities, time lingering with teammates before or after practice, academic meetings or study hall, visits to the training room for maintenance and rehab, etc. These activities do NOT count in that 20-hour limit. So the actual time commitment ends up being much greater.
According to the 2015 NCAA GOALS study, athletes in DI programs reported spending 34 hours per week on athletics activities in-season. Athletes in DII and DIII programs reported spending 32 and 28.5 hours per week, respectively, on athletics. Additionally, the majority of athletes across all three divisions spend just as much time on athletic activities during their off-season.
This is why it is SO important to find a college or university that is the right fit – academically, socially, and athletically. If you have no problem spending hours on end as an athlete, but let your academics slide, you will be at risk of ineligibility. If you love the social aspect of your school, keep up with your academics just fine, but ride the pine or find the time commitment of athletics overwhelming, your overall experience will suffer.
Start building strong time management habits now! Competing at the collegiate level is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have – but it necessitates a high level of commitment and discipline.
For more information on the time limitations of DI athletic programs, see the NCAA’s 20/8 Rule Materials.
Erin was a Division I rower at Stanford University. She won the Team NCAA DI Championship in 2009, and an event NCAA DI Championship in 2011. She now lives and works in Colorado as a member of the SAS team, helping to educate the next generation of college athletes about the recruiting process.