Lets be honest, being a student athlete is difficult. Balancing your sport, school, social life and a job (if you have one) can be quite the juggling act at any level. For example, here is a typical schedule for a student-athlete in a Canadian University:
*Keep in mind, this doesn't include studying, cooking, working out, commuting, or your socializing.
The purpose of me sharing this information isn't to scare anyone, but rather to illustrate some realities of life as a student athlete. As a student athlete, you have the same academic expectations and deadlines as every other student with no exceptions or special treatment. We must find a way to succeed in our academic and athletic careers under these circumstances.
WHY ACADEMIC SUCCESS IS IMPORTANT
It can be easy to undermine the importance of academic success especially when we are also so focused on our athletic success. This is something that I have struggled with so I understand how easy it is to fall into this mindset of "football first". I think it is safe to say that everyone reading this has been told that school is important a thousand times. So rather than just tell you, let me show you a few facts based on research:
- A one-point increase in high school GPA has been shown to almost double the probability that an adolescent boy or girl will someday complete a college degree.
- A one-point increase in a person's high school GPA has been shown to increase average annual earnings in adulthood by about 13%.
- Here are the average minimum grades you need to get into the following University of Calgary faculties this year:
-Arts: 70-78% -Commerce: 82% -Engineering: 85% - Science: 78-90% - Kinesiology: 80-85%
As you can see, your grades in high school will have a major effect on not only what you can take in University, but also your likeliness to finish University and have a successful career.
It is also important to understand that while professional football is a great goal, it is very difficult to get to that level, it can often also be very short lived. This is why it is vital to prioritize your career outside of football. Check out the statistics below.
KEYS TO SUCCESS AS A STUDENT ATHLETE
- Focus on your WHY! Remember WHY it is important to YOU to succeed in school. If you have an idea of what you want your career outside of football to be, then focus on that. If you do not, then focus on keeping all options open for your future self and exploring choices.
- Write down your GOALS! Whether you're in middle school, high school or college, write down your long term and short term goals.
- PLAN! Write out a game plan of how you're going to execute your goals. I recommend using a journal or calendar and planning out your months, weeks and days, prioritizing your time to include studying, working out, cooking etc.
- EXECUTE! Now it is time to execute your plan. Stay focused and trust the process!
Part 2 of this series will focus on in season physical preparation, which is crucial because it helps you to perform at an optimal level on game day. This includes: practice, strength training, cardio, mobility routines, injury treatment/prevention, nutrition and hydration. A lot to balance isn't it? While it is difficult to focus on all of these things every day, it is much easier to build a routine that addresses all of these components. Your routine should be custom fit to your priorities and what works well for YOU.
Practice is repeating an action multiple times before performing it. Whether it be a throw, catch, cut or a play. In football we want to build muscle memory, so that we can perform these actions effectively and effortlessly. Depending on your position and skill set, you will to carry a ‘toolbox’ around with you throughout your career that consists of different skills. As you go through your journey and continue to master your craft you will always add to your toolbox. In the off season, practice means working on your craft, whatever it might be. During the season, practice usually takes care of itself.
Working out can be tough during the season, but it can also pay huge dividends later in the season. Everyone is strong at the beginning of the season, but you can differentiate yourself by following a workout routine throughout the season so that you are still strong in the later parts of the season. What works for me is to designate 2-3 days per week to workout, this allows me to hit each muscle group at least once per week as well as knock out my mobility work.
Former Pittsburgh Steeler James Harrison spent $350,000/year on “bodywork” (massage, acupuncture, cupping etc.) while he was playing. Now, spending this much money on bodywork is not realistic for the vast majority of us, however it does shed light on how important treatment is for him. And considering he played linebacker in the NFL at a high level, until he was almost 40, his opinion is valuable in the conversation of longevity. Bodywork includes anything from foam rolling to acupuncture to massage therapy. Bodywork increases mobility, relaxes muscles, treats/prevents injuries etc. If you cannot afford to have someone do this for you, which can get quite expensive, take matters into your own hands. You can purchase a lacrosse ball, foam roller, and massage cups for under $20. These all can be effective forms of bodywork, and you can find many guides and exercises on the internet if you are not familiar with how to use them.
It is easy to let nutrition and hydration slip by the wayside during a season, but it is still important to perform at your best level. Habits are key here, as it is unrealistic to expect to have these things at the forefront of your mind throughout a busy day. If you make your own meals, have a few go to meals that you know are healthy and easy to make. Do your own research on what you want to include in your diet and take control of what you put in your body. For more on why it is important to hydrate and how to properly hydrate, click here.
- ROBERT WOODSON
RAW SPORTS CO-FOUNDER & DEFENSIVE BACK FOR THE TORONTO ARGONAUTS
We all want to be successful on game day, right? But, what exactly determines success when the lights are on? Furthermore, what affect does the preparation that you put in prior to the game have on playing at a high level? There are many different types of preparation, and it is important to evaluate each separately and find the right amount that works for you. In part 1 of this segment, we will go over mental preparation. Being mentally prepared allows you to play fast and aggressive, and can be broken down into two categories: understanding your assignments, and knowing you opponent.
It is not a good feeling to be on the field and not know your assignment, and this very rarely if ever leads to success. Depending on your coach, your weekly game plan can be very simple, complicated, or anything in between. However, what is consistent in all of these cases is that you are the one on the field playing, and if you do not execute your assignments, the blame will be solely on you. Therefore, before you watch any film on another team or think about who you're playing, it is crucial to know your alignments, responsibilities and adjustments on your own plays.
Every player has their own style in preparing for an opponent. Players such as Peyton Manning, Patrick Peterson, Luke Kuechly, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Larry Fitzgerald use their preparation time to thoroughly dissect their opponent, and in doing so they amplify their play on game day. Charles Woodson used a slightly different approach, and would have a few ‘nuggets’ heading into game day each week, and knew that when these plays came it was go time. Other players prefer to watch minimal film on their opponent and have the mindset that if they play well on their end, that the rest would be taken care of. The truth is that there isn’t a right or wrong answer that applies to everyone. It really comes down to your personal preference, position, level of play etc.
I have been fortunate to get to know some great football minds throughout my career. One of those is Anthony Calvillo, arguably the best quarterback in CFL history. Anthony Calvillo finished his career with 79,816 passing yards, which is more than any Quarterback in the CFL or NFL, ever. He is also one of seven Quarterbacks to throw over 400 career touchdowns, the others being Brett Favre, Warren Moon, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. He is now the quarterbacks coach for my current team, the Toronto Argonauts. I asked him what his secret to being successful for so many years was, and I think it is important to share some of the 'nuggets' that he told me. He attributes his success to his ability to prepare consistently, and to do the little things that many players are not willing to do. His weekly routine was meticulous and efficient, it really illustrates the importance of mastering your own game plan, studying your opponent and merging the two. Every day he would re write his notes and the plays that would be ran that week, even if he already knew them well. He would then spend at least two hours watching film on the defense he would be playing against that week, and go through his reads on the plays in the game plan. Throughout his career, he was known for his ability to go through his reads and get the ball out extremely fast. In our conversation, he noted that he was able to do this because he had already played the game several time before game day, and that by game time he didn’t have to think.
Throughout my football career I have been both under prepared and over prepared for a game. Playing under prepared can lead to your opponent catching you off guard and missed opportunity, while being over prepared can lead to over thinking on the field. At every level I have played, I have found a lot of value in putting time in the film room. Football really comes down to a collection of 1 on 1 battles. The more you can learn about your opponents strengths and weaknesses, the better you can attack and defend against them. Throughout the week, I will find a handful of nuggets that I can use during the game. Trying to focus on too many patterns and tendencies can slow you down and can lead to ‘paralysis by analysis’.
- Robert WOODSON
RAW SPORTS CO-FOUNDER & DEFENSIVE BACK FOR THE TORONTO ARGONAUTS