Being a student is no walk in the park! As a result of their involvement in various interest groups and societies offered by their schools and other communities, students often find themselves juggling their academic commitments with many supplementary activities. Of these, sports is a popular choice, and one that requires high level of dedication, hard work and effort in order to make the cut for their varsity teams.

Consequently, some student athletes face the dilemma of choosing between sports and studies as their main focus. While trying to achieve success in both areas might sound intimidating and an almost impossible task, many outstanding student athletes have proven the possibility and continue to be inspiring role models for many.

Train together and study together

During a sports competition, team players work together to score goals, defend against opponents, and support each other in order to emerge as victors of the game. Applying this concept of teamwork in academic life, students can form study groups and help each other out by organising weekly study sessions. Find out each other’s strength and weaknesses among the modules, and assign a subject “in-charge” to be the peer tutor for that module. This increases efficiency and effectiveness of studying because less time is consumed in understanding the concepts and encourages learning from one another.

Study teams can also form academic goals and work towards it in unison. For instance, as the first team goal, to achieve a 100% pass grade for everyone in the team for all modules. Increasing the level of difficulty in achieving those academic goals can also motivate everyone to work harder and strive for greater academic excellence.

Consult teachers and coaches

If students happen to miss classes and important seminars due to trainings and tournaments during their sport seasons, teachers are always there to provide academic assistance. That said, if you are requesting out-of-hours consultation and your professor is doing you a favour, don’t waste his/her time by being ill-prepared. It is highly advisable to have done some basic reading on your own, and go in armed with a list of questions. With issues to be addressed identified, the consultation will be steered in the correct direction, and enable students to get the best out of that session.

If students feel that they are unable to cope with the intensity of the trainings, they should speak to their sport coaches about it instead of struggling to manage both, only to find themselves losing out at both ends.

Veteran cross-country coach, Mr Steven Quek, who has been coaching student-athletes at various institutions since 1986, has done extensive research on developing ways to achieve success in sports while meeting the demands of the rigourous education system in Singapore. At the 2014 National Schools Cross Country Championships, his teams from Raffles Institution (A Division Boys & Girls, B & C Division Boys) and River Valley High School (B Division Girls) achieved a record-breaking five championship titles.

To quote the reputable teacher-coach, “it’s really about getting the kids’ studies and CCA (co-curricular activities) in order… When their lives are in order, they can do sports well.” With one of his former student-athlete, Miss Renuka Satianathan, Mr Quek has published a book, titled Excel in Sports and Studies – You Can Do It!, equipped with useful tools to aid athletes in managing their hectic student lives and that excelling in both areas is not an impossibility.

Talk to your senior peers

Alternatively, some students prefer approaching their senior peers, people who have been through similar experiences and can offer advice in a less formal context. Peer mentorship allows students to learn from their seniors and apply to their lifestyle and at the same time, enable senior students to develop their leadership skills.

Family support

Family is the most important pillar of support for student athletes who are struggling to meet their sports and academic demands. Parents are advised to align their expectations to their child’s capabilities and self-determined targets, and refrain from adding even more pressure on them during the crucial periods of the competition seasons and school examinations.

Be independent for your own learning

As in studies, so too in sports, there are bound to be challenges in the pursuit of excellence. The desire to succeed in both may seem intense, yet it is not completely impossible. Just as a single bad race does not break a whole season, a single bad test score does not spell academic doom. Apply the same logic in training as you would in academia – of identifying areas of weakness, and working to improve on them.

Incorporating the good habit of using a diary or planner will enable students to keep track and allocate time for training, studying and leisure. Having an organised study desk, free of distractions, can boost concentration while studying. These are just a few of the many tips that student athletes can adopt to support their studying needs.

At the end of the day, student athletes have the final say in deciding what to do in their spare time in between study and training breaks, weekends or holidays. With self-discipline and determination to work hard and train hard consistently, students will be surprised how their seemingly hectic campus life starts to fall into place.

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