Tips for Basketball Student Athletes

At the high school level, basketball transitions from a simple game to a more serious athletic competition that directly affects players’ overall quality of life. Training sessions and practices become much more intense, and games are approached with a ferocious and focused mindset.

With that transition comes a new-found respect for the game. However, there’s often another, less beneficial result of this transition: Life outside of basketball suddenly becomes secondary and the day’s seem shorter. Here’s a list of tips that you can use as a student-athlete to help balance school demands with your commitment to basketball.

Remember It’s Still a Game

The pressure to be successful in basketball is something most players anticipate. However, it’s one thing to know it’s coming and another to actually have to deal with it. That pressure provides a wake-up call for potential players in two ways:

  1. It gives players a realistic idea about what’s involved in committing to play basketball at the high school level.
  2. It provides a clear indication that players are expected to take the game more seriously than they had in the past.

Although it’s occasionally perceived negatively by players who don’t expect it, or parents that don’t fully understand its purpose, that pressure isn’t an inherently bad thing. However, it’s far more important to realize that there’s no binding contract forcing you to keep playing; if that pressure takes away from the enjoyment of the game, there’s no reason to continue. Basketball is a game, and games are supposed to be fun.

Stick to a Schedule

One of the first things players notice in the transition to basketball at the high school level is the dramatic increase in the amount of time it takes to be involved with the game. This is indicative of life in high school overall; more time, more commitments, and more responsibility. Add into the mix any existing obligations outside of school — chores at home, relationships, part-time jobs — and time suddenly becomes a precious commodity.

The easiest way to deal with multiple obligations is to create a schedule for yourself. A schedule is the best way to manage your time and ensure that all your different responsibilities are being satisfied. There are several things to keep in mind when creating a time-management schedule:

  1. Write out your schedule a week at a time: Because your obligations likely won’t change much from week to week, a seven day schedule will provide you with an accurate assessment of how much time is devoted to different activities.
  2. Prioritize your various obligations: Figure out how much time you’re spending on each of your obligations. Some happen on a fixed time table that’s outside your control (like practices and games), while other obligations take place on your personal time. Understand which are most important, and make sure enough time is devoted to these activities.
  3. Stay flexible (slightly): New obligations — everything from team meetings to school projects — will regularly pop up, and these unplanned responsibilities can put added strain on an already busy schedule. As such, if a new activity isn’t mandatory, don’t be afraid to say “no.” Going with a group of friends to a movie instead of studying may seem appealing, but maintaining good grades should be more important than catching the latest action flick. Smart decisions aren’t always the most fun to make, but they are the most beneficial in the long run.

Once you have your schedule, make a personal commitment to abide by it. Sticking to a schedule may seem tough at first, but once it becomes your normal routine, the benefits will far outweigh the difficulties.

Make School the Priority

There’s a reason the term ‘student-athlete’ exists. While the pressure you may feel predominantly relates to basketball, it’s vital to understand that without success in school, you won’t be able to play.

Every governing organization has a minimum GPA that student-athletes must meet in order to be allowed to play high school sports. Also, don’t be surprised if your parents require you to put basketball on hold if it becomes too difficult to balance playing with school.

Though many players prefer the court to the classroom, the reality is that playing basketball is a privilege, not a guaranteed right. There are several things you can do to make sure your school work gets ample attention:

  1. Make it a priority: Obviously you’re required to be in school for a certain number of hours during the day, but rarely will you have enough time to get all of your school work done during normal school hours. Be sure to block off enough time every day to get your homework and studying done.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: Having trouble in a particular area? Get help sooner rather than later. Sometimes there is an unfortunate stigma associated with asking for help; some people see it as a sign of weakness, particularly in a sport like basketball where toughness and individual success are such valued qualities. But that stigma simply isn’t true. Asking for help on your schoolwork is no different than asking a teammate to set a screen — it’s a slight boost that will make it easier for you to do your job.

Getting good grades directly affects your opportunity to play. If you love basketball but hate school, you’re definitely not alone, but that doesn’t change the fact that you cannot have one without the other.

Hot Tip: Getting Help

Most teachers are more than willing to help their students succeed in school, although the rigid demands of a basketball schedule frequently limit when student-athletes and teachers can meet. Still, it never hurts to ask a teacher about getting help on a particular subject. Even a half-hour during lunch or before school is better than nothing at all.

Many school districts also have a list of tutors on hand. Tutors generally have greater availability, as they frequently work specifically when school isn’t in session. And some tutors even work for free, getting paid by the school district or obtaining college credit in return for their services.

Walking a Fine Line

The task of juggling school and basketball can seem overwhelming at first. The difficulty of balancing your responsibilities is a sign of the commitment required to play the game at a higher level. Remember that with hard work, it can be done. And the longer you do it, the easier it becomes.

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