Why Student-Athletes Need To Rest And Reflect


By Shaleek Blackburn

The primary thing to understand about athletics, according to Concordia University Irvine Psychology of Coaching professor Dr. Mark McElroy, is that it is a process.

“There’s a strong focus on winning in all sports,” says McElroy. “Take the NFL, for example. There are 32 teams with one Super Bowl champion and in the world’s eyes, 31 losers. And that’s not really true,” he says. The key to understanding how to go about developing practices as well as how to interact with and motivate your players, is to shift their focus from an obsession with winning outcomes to creating processes that prepare you to win. It’s that foundational principle that leads to success on the court, in the classroom, and in personal and professional lives, according to the highly acclaimed head football coach.

“Athletics can yield great life lessons and develop values that can influence an individual,” he says. If coaches and athletic directors structure their programs stemming from that mentality, McElroy says that’s a real win.

As for ensuring student-athletes get proper rest, McElroy suggests determining how much time should be devoted to practice and preparation. For student-athletes, figuring out how their academic, spiritual and sports lives can coexist and thrive can be overwhelming. To manage it all, balance is the key.

“When you talk about a person that’s balanced, usually someone who takes care of their body, their mind, their spirit, and their friends and families. They’re responsible, accountable human beings in society,” McElroy says. “All of those things can be taught on the athletic field.” But home is the main starting point, McElroy stresses.

“The balance really has to start with parents teaching their children what proper balance is in terms of in-season and off-season schedules,” he says. But that doesn’t mean that student-athletes shouldn’t be accountable, too. “It’s important for kids to develop goals for themselves and determine strategies to reach those goals, and still have fun in the process. Of course there is hard work involved in athletics, making balancing that hard work with fun all the more critical,” says McElroy.

3 Tips For Rest, Balance And Perspective

Tips for rest:

  • Schedule dedicated downtime to recuperate mentally and physically
  • Recognize when it’s time to take it easy

Tips for balance:

  • Know who you are
  • Enjoy the process
  • Develop your priorities

Tips for perspective:

  • Learn from the past
  • Live in the present
  • Prepare for the future

Tags: development, off the field, leadership

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