BGSU Women’s Soccer Coaches Explain How They Ensure Their Players Maintain a Healthy Balance Between Their Sports and School Life


Alice Denny and Elaine Houchin

Being a D1 college athlete is an admirable challenge; it combines the stress of maintaining both top level academics and sports prowess. College athletes who have higher levels of stress are at a greater risk of illness and injury. Luckily, the women’s soccer coaches here at BGSU are finding ways to combat this stress. The team’s Director of Operations, Bernie Compton, says “We try to be very mindful of making sure we balance sport with life and school”. A successful balance off the field contributes to distraction-free practices and games, determined by preparedness. To the coaches, making sure that athletes are maintaining both their school and sports is extremely important to the performance of the team. Head Coach Jimmy Walker believes that athletes who are in a better headspace when it comes to their stress perform better on the field.

According to Azusa Pacific University, time management is one of the most important things when it comes to being a college athlete. College athletes report that academic rigor is not the greatest stressor in their college life. Rather, it is managing their time. When it comes to time, college athletes have very little of it. In season, players can spend upwards of twenty hours per week on the field. This leaves very little time to study and participate in activities outside of school. To avoid built up stress, it is necessary for students to be adept at planning ahead. This way, they can effectively budget hours for studying and team requirements, while leaving some time for recreation.

In order to make sure athletes are operating at their highest level, the BGSU women’s soccer team has implemented a number of tactics. This year, mentor groups have been formed to help introduce incoming freshmen to the life of a player on a D1 soccer team. The team participates in fun and stress-free group activities including attending sporting events, eating out, and cooking meals together. This eliminates some of the pressure of the field. BGSU employs an academic coordinator. This person greatly helps athletes with their time management. Additionally, there is a licensed mental health professional for the athletes. Having these support systems helps students when they are feeling overwhelmed due to their packed schedules.

Student communication with both coaches and professors is imperative to the maintenance of a healthy balance. When an athlete is struggling, discussion with these authority figures is the only way to resolve issues. Just as college professors understand the commitment that athletes make to their team, coaches know that academics must be prioritized. With open communication, professors and coaches can usually make accommodations to help the student get back on track at their best level of performance. 

The stresses of a college athlete can greatly impact their performance. Because of this, it is important to the women’s soccer coaches at BGSU that players feel comfortable discussing their stress and finding ways to combat or manage it. Being both a serious athlete and a student provides different kinds of stresses compared to the average student. Making sure that these stresses do not compound is imperative to not only the mental health of the team, but their performance as well. Jimmy Walker highly values the well-being of his players, understanding the important role of coaches in individual as well as team success. “We also have to teach and educate”, he says.   

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