First-years need to learn the delicate art of balancing academics with a number of other facets in life. For many student-athletes, the juggling of both sport and academics is at the forefront. It is a thrill to represent UP on the field or court, but it is one that comes with dual responsibilities. Or rather, multiple responsibilities, because a well-rounded life includes relationships, socialising, and more.

The Balancing Act: Managing Multiple Commitments by the University of Nebraska Omaha has the following tips to make finding your equilibrium more manageable. First off, prioritise. Students need to ask themselves what is most important and rank their commitments accordingly. As a student-athlete, academics and sport will be at the top. This can be taken deeper in terms of task prioritisation using a priorities matrix. How important or unimportant and urgent or not-urgent is it?

Secondly, there is organisation. The use of planners, schedules, reminders and alarms can all help student-athletes, and students in general, keep track of what needs to be done. Whether it is training, preparing for a tutorial or having a night off with friends, put it to paper. This organisation of diarising helps free up a student’s brain of overwhelming clutter.

Setting boundaries or saying “No!” is the third tip to balancing your commitments. It is a tip that requires a lot of self-discovery as a student needs to know their own limits, which can be difficult as a first-year. As a student- athlete, saying “No!” is not just reserved for those friends who want to party every night. It is important for students to set personal boundaries within themselves: “No, I will not overwork myself at practice.”, “No, I will not push to train when I have a week left to recover.” “No, I can’t wait till post-season to focus on my academics.”

Setting boundaries goes hand in hand with the fourth tip. Rest, refuel and recover. As a student- athlete, a day can be filled to the brim with classes and training. Therefore, it is important to be intentional about setting aside time to recuperate from such a rigorous schedule. It is also important to realise one’s being may need different kinds of rest, and different feelings of tiredness should be remedied with the correct rest type. Psychology Today notes seven types of rest, which all need to be tended to: physical, mental, sensory, emotional, social, creative and spiritual rest.

On the whole, these are just a few tips first- year student-athletes can implement to tackle the number of demands in the university space more effectively. Navigating this space requires strategies and finesse to transform seemingly conflicting priorities into a balanced life, which will make the journey more enjoyable than challenging. But sometimes, “rookies” also need some words of inspiration from those who have already managed to figure out a winning recipe to the balancing act.

Here is advice from some UP student- athletes from various clubs:

Katelyn Marais

Club: TuksSwimming

Advice: Make sure to keep up with all your training, even if it feels hard with all the tests coming up, as it’s easier to stay consistent than to get back into it.

Feranah Burger 

Club: TuksRugby 

Advice: The most important thing is to always remember why you are doing the sport and who you are doing it for. And always work hard towards your goal. God should be your main reason for doing what you are doing. Always stay humble and grateful. Lastly, always leave your heart on the field or track and enjoy the success/ win that comes afterwards.

Ethan Moyo

Club: TuksBasketball

Advice: Sponsorship and funding for sports like basketball in the country have not grown, so banking all on making a living out of basketball isn’t advisable. Getting your degree should be your first priority.

Hessitany de Deus

Club: TuksBasketball

Advice: Even though adapting to university can be hard, it is important to find balance. Go out with friends, play sports, join a club, go to a church community. These are the things that will bring you joy when university is hard!

Prosperity Magagula

Club: TuksNetball

Advice: Being a student-athlete, especially for UP, is the best thing that can ever happen to you, but don’t ever forget that the “student” comes before “athlete”.

It is evident that finding a balance to the student-athlete lifestyle is possible with the right approach. UP’s very own have said so. The key is taking action (perhaps using some of the tips here), being mindful of the different demands and finding a way to make them work together. With dedication and focus, anything is possible. So Fly@UP, first-years, PDBY is rooting for you.

Neo Paledi
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Sandisiwe Msibi
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