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A Day in the Life of a College Gymnast: Summer School

We are officially one month into summer, and what a whirlwind this last month has been! 

Some programs have already started welcoming new athletes to campus to get accustomed to college life! Learning how to deal with such a big transition takes time, so having this period to bond with the teammates you will spend the next four years with, wander around campus, and figure out a manageable schedule is so important.

For the last couple of Day in the Life pieces, I have had the chance to talk about summer training, the mental and physical preparation each athlete needs to do before heading into their next year, and what preseason training looks like in comparison to the intensity of months of competition. 

For this piece, I am leaning more into the student aspect of student-athlete, and what this looks like in the summer. During the school year, managing school on top of training, and eventually competition season, is a difficult task. However, for a lot of athletes, this student-to-athlete balance doesn’t just start when the school year does. Summer school in college looks very different from the potentially dreaded summer school of middle or high school; summer school throughout your time in the NCAA is something you may choose to do for many different reasons. 

In my own personal experience during my time at both Bridgeport and Temple, I took summer classes for four of the five years I was competing. These classes look different for everyone, whether they have to take an online class for a couple of weeks during the summer, complete an internship for college credit, or even get the opportunity to study abroad. Whatever this experience may look like, prioritizing the student aspect while preparing for the upcoming preseason is a big commitment. 

The student-athlete experience is without a doubt incredibly rewarding, but it comes with a great deal of responsibility. During the school year, student-athletes are required to maintain a certain grade point average in order to be eligible to practice with the team and compete during their season. This requirement holds true if you are taking summer classes as well. The NCAA specifically has rules as to what GPA you have to maintain, but each individual program may have specified this requirement even further to be eligible to be on the team. This being said, knowing what these requirements are and determining a way to maintain them, especially during the summer when there are no coaches or advisors to stay on top of your work, is crucial. 

For the past nine months of school, whether you are coming out of high school or out of a year of college, you have been on a pretty regimented schedule. A big challenge of summer school is learning how to be accountable for sticking to a schedule and prioritizing these things, like classes, practice, and recovery,  on your own. You might be asking, “Well didn’t you just do this all year? It shouldn’t be that hard.” During the school year, learning how to manage your time is difficult, but there are people to help you. During the summer it gets harder because you want a rest period, but gymnastics is truly a sport with no offseason. Now, you are responsible for not only your training and being prepared for the expectations of preseason, but also for maintaining this academic standard directly following an intense school and competition year. 

Again speaking from my own experience, as an underclassman, the classes I took during the summer were usually the required “Intro to…” classes. As I got closer to graduation, these classes got much more specific and increasingly difficult. The second semester of my senior year and into my super senior year, I was working toward getting my Master of Education, so, the classes I was taking were essential to not only getting my degree but being knowledgeable of what I was doing post-graduation. There’s a mindset flip during college that gymnastics will be over in a year or two, but what you are now working toward in the classroom is forever. As you inch closer to the end, being accountable for your education and the future career you want when sports are over is crucial. 

Since the internship of my college experience was student teaching during the competition season (which was an experience in itself), I did not have to do an internship over the summer. However, for many student-athletes, the summer is the only time they are able to fulfill this requirement. There are different requirements for different majors: for example, the hours you may need to shadow or do clinical work to get credits for this class. Unless you get lucky, these internships are unpaid, so juggling this major time and academic commitment on top of training, possibly a summer job, and still having time for yourself during the summer before another intense year is a balancing act. 

Taking classes, working in an internship, or studying abroad is undoubtedly a privilege to be able to do during the summer months, but it also tests your ability to manage and prioritize your time. Every athlete’s summer schedule looks different from the times they are in the gym, the school work, or actual work they are doing. The summer is much more flexible in terms of when and where you are able to take these credits or finish certain program requirements that might not be feasible during the rest of the year. Taking an online class during the summer, whether that be in your hometown, in your apartment on campus, or traveling abroad to take courses in person are all benefits of having the flexibility to continue the program in these summer months.

While there are responsibilities of a student-athlete year round, this time in the summer is not just for preparing yourself to come back to campus with a few more credits and some upgraded skills. This period is the mark of a very well-deserved time of recovery and reflection, enjoying the things you might not have been able to with the more limited time you had during the season. Coming back to school with not only skills you learned in the gym, but skills you learned at your summer job, internship, or studying abroad is even more useful as you head into another year. 

READ THIS NEXT: After a Two-Year Break From Gymnastics, Brianna Lucas Earns Scholarship to Eastern Michigan

Article by Julianna Roland

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