Time Management as a Student-Athlete

“Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have.”

~John C. Maxwell


Being a student-athlete is almost like having a full-time job. Between school, practices, games, etc. there just never seems to be enough time to fit everything in. Often, school or sport, or both, take a hit when student-athletes try to juggle everything they have going on and maintain a semblance of a social life. So how do some student-athletes make it work, while others don’t? The key is time management, or as the quote above says, “priority management.”

I am an extremely focused and driven individual, and while I was in school (both high school and college), these traits pretty much defined my life. Academics were very important to me because, as athletes, we never know when our careers may come to an end. I wanted to do everything I could in school to ensure that I would have a solid foundation to build on when my athletic career finished. At the same time, I also wanted to excel in sport. My goal was always to go to the Olympics and play volleyball professionally, so I devoted a lot of time to becoming the best athlete I could be.

In high school, I played club volleyball, basketball, and soccer, with the seasons overlapping at times. I played volleyball, basketball, and badminton for my high school, and was studying the Royal Conservatory of Music curriculum for piano. I maintained a 95% average in school and sometimes missed school for weeks at a time to play for our National Team. In college, I played volleyball, and had a 3-hour practice every afternoon, with matches on Wednesday and Saturday nights. Two mornings per week we had to go to weight training between or before classes. To make room for practice, classes could only be taken in the morning until early afternoon or at night. I graduated with a degree in Biochemistry with a 4.0 GPA.

I’m not writing this to brag or anything like that. I am sharing this to prove that it is 100% possible to be insanely busy, yet still do everything you want to do, and to do it all well. With the right mindset, strategies, and discipline, it’s possible to be a successful student-athlete and have the life you want.

Here are some strategies and steps you can take to have control over your time management, and your life as a student-athlete:

1. Decide what is important to you

Make a list of the things in your life that are important to you. Things on this list could include family, friends, sport, school, your job…. whatever you want and/or need to have time for in your life. The list can range from the general to the specific. Instead of writing “School,” for example, one of the entries could be, “Be on the honour roll every semester.”

2. Rank the list items in order of importance

Rank the items on your list, from the thing or goal that is undoubtably the most important part of your life to have time for, to the least important. This list becomes your list of PRIORITIES. Now, instead of focusing so much on time management, the focus shifts to priority management. With a well-thought-out list of priorities, there should never be any question of what should come first, should options present themselves to you. For example, if number 3 on my list is “Sport” and number 5 on my list is “Friends,” I should NEVER skip a practice to go to a school dance. Being honest with yourself about what is matters most is critical in determining a student-athlete’s success.

3. Plan your schedule appropriately

Student-athletes usually know their practice and school schedules in advance, as class and practice times don’t usually change all that much. Keep track of the variables like homework, tests, tournaments, parties, etc., and fit them into your schedule, making sure to complete them in order of priority. Also, it never hurts to get things done ahead of schedule. Before college, I always heard of people pulling “all-nighters” to study or finish papers on time, but once I got there, I never once went to bed after my normal bedtime. Seriously haha. Maintaining a 4.0 GPA was high on my priority list, so I just planned ahead. If I had nothing going on, I got homework done early so that I could have more time later to enjoy other items on my list, such as hanging out with friends, without compromising my priorities.

4. Discipline is crucial and sacrifice is part of the deal

We can’t always get what we want; it’s part of life. Student-athletes, especially, will always experience the struggle of balancing school and sport with wanting to be a normal kid. That’s fine, and it’s understandable. Any person who has ever set high goals for themselves, or who has pursued excellence in anything has dealt with the same thing. The difference between the people who truly thrive and succeed at priority management, and those who don’t, is discipline and sacrifice.

You can make all the lists you want, but if you don’t have the discipline to follow through and hold yourself accountable to your priorities, it’s all for nothing. Priority management involves a lot of sacrifice, and there are many times that you will have to make tough decisions, or say no to something you really want to do. It all comes down to what is important to you, and what you want above all else. If your priorities are truly priorities, there will be no regrets, though, and you will be able to master all that comes with being a student-athlete, crazy schedules and all.

What strategies have you used to manage a hectic schedule? I would love to hear them in the comments below!

xo, Sarah



  • Samantha Durbin December 25, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Hey Sarah. I play volleyball for the tigers and really look up to you. thanks, for being such an inspiration.

    • Sarah Pavan January 12, 2018 at 3:05 pm

      Thanks Samantha! Good luck in your season!


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