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How College Athletes Deal with Stress and Manage Time Report

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Updated: Dec 12th, 2019


College student athletes engage in sports for various personal reasons and interests. Participation in college sports is based on personal choices and leaves the athletes with stress issues involving competition in the sports, maintenance of good grades and social life as well as time management for all these activities (Kimball & Freysinger, 2003).

The involvement of college athletes in sports exposes them to stress which applies to different generations over the years. The stress affecting not only affects their sporting, but also other disciplines such as health, psychology, leisure, social life and academics all of which form a crucial part of the athletes’ life.

In addition, the athletes are faced with pressure and high expectations in the fields, confusion about their identity as well as the increased peer pressure (Donohue, Miller, Crammer, Cross & Covassin, 2007). As a result, there are many opportunities for counseling and other support programs for the college athletes due to the increase in health issues, involvement in crime, self esteem problems, drug abuse and related vices, and peer and parental pressure.

It is worth noting that field-based research helps these students by giving them recommendations on handling the problems especially in the career and vocational concerns, fear of success, academic problems, conflicts in terms of identity, poor sporting performance and isolation problems (Sherburne & Ruth, 2010).

Additionally, college athletes can either venture into professional sport or academics and other sport-related entrepreneurial activities and this creates the need for guidance in identifying themselves and in decision making especially regarding career development. The relevant journal articles regarding college athletes and stress issues will be reviewed in this paper.

The review helps to provide information regarding how college athletes deal with stress, balance between studies and sports and how they manage their time. The articles that provide a historical insight to the topic include studies conducted by: Rishe (2003), Kimball and Freysinger (2003) and Martens, Dams-O’Connor, Duffy and Gibson (2006).

Donohue, Miller, Crammer, Cross and Covassin (2007) provide the best practice in the subject area while Sherburne and Ruth (2010) and Huang, Durand, Derevensky, Gupta and Paskus (2007) provide a theoretical background for the subject of college student athletes and stress influences.

Literature Review

Kimball and Freysinger (2003) conducted a research study entitled “Leisure, stress, and coping: The sport participation of collegiate student-athletes” which explores the stress experiences of college student athletes that are influenced by their participation in sporting activity.

They provide a strong historical background and approach for the relationship between college student athletes’ participation in sport, stress issues and coping mechanisms by evaluating historical researches conducted on sport psychology. Historical research suggests the existence of a relationship between participating in leisure activities such as sports in that leisure itself could provide sources of stress for college student athletes (Iwasaki & Smale, 1998).

However, Kimball and Freysinger (2003) narrow their research to focus on college sport, the stress process and the influences of gender and race in shaping the stress experience for college student athletes to provide more explanations for leisure, coping with stress and health relationships.

The study relied on a gender balanced sample but of different races and academic levels. The study involved interviews to identify stressors both within and outside the sporting activity, stressors from other previous research and other structural factors. The study provides the historical background of the sources of stress for the college student athletes providing information as to how college athletes perceive stress, influences such as race and gender as well as the benefits of sports in reducing stress for the college athletes.

For example Dale (2000) provides the meaning of stress to the student athletes. In addition, the researchers found that though leisure can be a source of stress, it also has significant positive effects on health and acts as a means of coping with stress. The study also revealed that there are differences in gender perceptions towards college sport and stress and that race is a causal factor of stress among college student athletes especially for those of a minority race since it affects their social life and increases isolation.

The study revealed that concepts of self determination, social support and control affect the students with indications that the college sports both generate and buffer stress.

The study however was limited by not examining the relationship between leisure and health for the college student athletes and the racial disparities used were not conclusive. Another limitation is the assumption that participating in sport for the college student athletes would be a stressful experience which may have limited analysis due to the subjective nature of stress and individual differences (Kimball & Freysinger, 2003).

Donohue et al. (2007) conducted a study whose main objective was to develop an instrument that would assess the specific sport problems in the relationships between athletes and their coaches, peers, family and teammates. The researchers provide a best practice approach for the negative and positive role these relationships play in the stress influences of college athletes as well as their role in coping and support mechanisms for the athletes.

The researchers shed light on the great influence of motivation on the athletes, the determinant role of parents in sport motivation for athletes; the role of peers in companionship, esteem, support and recognition for accomplishments, and the negative influence of coaches on the athletes. The relationships presented in the study form the foundation for the role they play in influencing the college athletes in competing in sports, managing their social and academic life as well as time management.

Donohue et al. (2007) present the best practices for the relationship between college student athletes and how they deal with stressors in sport competition, maintenance of good grades and social life as well as time management. They highlight the positive and negative influence these relationships have on the college athletes both as creating stress and providing coping mechanisms.

For example, coaches influence the stress levels of the athletes during competition, peers and teammates provide the athletes with a social life by providing friendship and social support while parents determine the balance they have with their academics.

Donohue et al. (2007) use the ratings on happiness from the relationships and their influence on the sporting performance of the athletes whose results are used to form the Student Athlete Relationship Instrument (SARI). The results support the assertion that family members have greater influence on the involvement and achievement of college athletes in sports than their coaches.

Huang et al. (2007) conducted a study which analyzes gambling among college student athletes. The researchers base their study on the concern that the prevalence rates of gambling among the youth, gender differences, the influence of sporting and the concern for public health require more attention despite claims that the issues of gambling among youths is limited (Derevensky & Gupta, 2000).

This study provides theoretical background on the relationship between college student athletes and how they deal with stressors in sport competition, how they balance academic and social life as well as their time management strategies. This is demonstrated by the significant differences between gambling by athletes and non-athletes.

The athletes in the study were more involved in gambling than non-athletes with the involvement varying with the type of sport and gender thus presenting the differences in stress levels and management in different sports and gender.

Huang et al. (2007) show that out of the interviews and surveys conducted the college student athletes were motivated to engage in gambling for the sake of money. Further, the athletes had a highflyer level of engagement in sport wagering such as taking money for playing poorly and influencing the outcome of games with a certain percentage of them being pathological gamblers.

These behaviors can be highly associated with the stress factors that result from participating in sporting activities but the degree of stress varies with the sport. The study is limited by its reliance on the survey and lack of diverse sources of evidence. In addition, the responses were anonymous and not based on schools hence measurement of responses was not highly objective (Huang et al., 2007).

Martens et al. (2006) conducted a study titled, “Perceived alcohol use among friends and alcohol consumption among college athletes,” whose purpose was to determine whether alcohol-related problems and individual consumption of alcohol for college student athletes was more influenced by their close teammates or those in other different sports with similar behaviors than their non-athletic friends.

Further, the researchers sought to establish gender influences on individual consumption of alcohol and related behavior. The study established its findings that the college athletes were influenced more by their teammates and close athletes in other sports than by their non- athletic friends, with male students more involved in alcohol consumption than females.

This comprehensive study relates to the relationship between college student athletes and how they deal with stressors in sport competition, balancing of academic and social life as well as time management. The alcohol related problems affected the ability of the college athletes to concentrate on academics while much time was spent in sports and social life with the teammates. This study presents a rich theoretical background for the subject.

Past research shows that college student athletes who are considered to be at risk are more likely to engage in heavy alcohol consumption than non-athletes due to the high pressure and stress they face (Leichliter, Meilman, Cashin & Presley, 1998). The study makes use of a sample of 170 college student athletes who filled in the questionnaires administered by researchers.

The research revealed that the athletes perceived and estimated that their friends had higher alcohol consumption levels than themselves, with men having higher rates of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related behavior than women. Further, the research suggests that the involvement in sporting activities caused isolation and segregation which played a key role in their behaviors.

Conflicts in identity for the athletes were more pronounced in women while the influence of alcohol consumption is higher in team sports than individual sports. The research however is limited by the use of a cross-sectional study design which made it difficult to form conclusions that link causes and effects of the variables under investigation. Moreover, the method of data collection used relies on only one institution and the season on which the study was based did not coincide with sport competition events.

Rishe (2003) conducted a study titled “A reexamination of how athletic success impacts graduation rates: Comparing student athletes to all other undergraduates.” The study serves as a way of improving on past research on the subject through narrowed focus on the graduation rate of student athletes thus presenting a rich historical background on the subject.

This study is relevant to the relationships of how college student athletes deal with stressors from competing in sports, maintaining good grades and social life as well as time management. The academic performance of such athletes is revealed by their graduation rates or the venture of some athletes into sporting careers.

Past research shows that success in sports leads to poor academic performance (William, Tollison & Goff, 1986) while an inverse relationship exists between graduation rates and some sporting activities such as football (Tucker, 1992). In his study, Rishe (2003) makes use of empirical analysis with four cohorts from 308 division-1 schools.

The study shows that the degree of success of athletics influences the disparity in graduation between non-athletes and athletes and argues that college athletes are not affected negatively by the success of the athletic programs in their school. Rishe suggests that the difference in graduation rates between non-athletes and athletes is due to the pressures to succeed athletically which sometimes causes the athletes to focus more on sports.

This is relevant to the theoretical subject because of the fact that the pressure to succeed acts as a stressor to athletes and influences how they balance their academics, sports and social life. Rishe (2003) shows that female college athletes have higher graduation rates than their male counterparts, a fact that is explained by the gender differences in dealing with stress.

Additionally, the influences of the athletic program in place together with resources available as well as the control programs available are crucial in analyzing the graduation rates for athletes.

This is related to the issues of how college athletes deal with stressors of competition in the sport which is made efficient through effective athletic programs; maintenance of good grades which is influenced by availability of learning resources and institutional controls which also influence their social life; and time management skills needed to provide the right balance between sports, academics and social life.

The objective of the study by Sherburne and Ruth (2010) is to evaluate how participation in sports for college students influences their social skills and development, an area that has limited research. The study provides a review of past research that asserted that college athletes spend less time in socialization and communication with other people other than those in their sport or team as compared to non-athletes (Sherburne & Ruth, 2010).

The past research assumed that college athletes do not have much time to socialize because of the pressure of sports and academic work. In relation to the topic, Sherburne and Ruth (2010) highlight the stressors of social life that college student athletes contend with since the other peers assume that they do not have any time for socializing due to their tight sports and academic schedules. They further do not understand them and fail to recognize that the expectations that come with sports can be stressful for the athletes.

The study analyzed differences between non-athletes and athletes in the aspects of interpersonal competences and communication using questionnaires and communication competence scale. However, the survey did not find significant differences between non-athletes and athletes.

This means that once there are established support mechanisms, administrative control and balanced athletic programs, the difference in the social, academic and general differences between athletes and non-athletes are likely to be minimized. This is due to the relevance of coping mechanisms and other counseling services that keep athletes in balance (Sherburne & Ruth, 2010).

Further evaluation of interviews and focus group discussions revealed that college student athletes faced social isolation because of lack of time which narrows down to time management and conflict of identity. This is because there is confusion on whether they first identify as athletes then students or vice versa. Isolation is also due to the uncertainties that the college students face regarding the competitive nature of sports with the probabilities of winning or losing which create tension for them.

Uncertainty is also experienced by the students in academics some of whom are prone to poor performance. The study found a correlation between the personal life (socialization) of college athletes and their performance in. The research provides suggestions for future research and the development of support mechanisms through administration, coaching, mentoring and counseling to help the athletes acquire good socialization and communication skills for improved performance in sports and life (Sherburne & Ruth, 2010).


The research on the college student athletes and how they deal with stress in sport competition, maintenance of good grades and social life as well as time management is still relevant and of crucial importance in the face of increased stress issues on the verge of competition. The results of the studies reviewed in this paper have provided the platform upon which the study will be undertaken since they provided the historical insights and theoretical approach for the topic and offered best practices for the issue under investigation.

Reference List

Dale, G. (2000). Distractions and coping strategies of elite decathletes during their most memorable performances. The Sport Psychologist, 14 (1), 17–41.

Donohue, B., Miller, A., Crammer, L., Cross, C., & Covassin, T. (2007). A standardized method of assessing sport specific problems in the relationships of athletes with their coaches, teammates, family and peers. Journal of Sport Behavior, 30(4), 375-397.

Huang, J., Durand, J., Derevensky, J., Gupta, R., & Paskus, T. (2007). A national study on gambling among US college student athletes. Journal of American College Health, 56(2), 93-99.

Iwasaki, Y., & Smale, B. (1998). Longitudinal analyses of the relationships among life transitions, chronic health problems, leisure, and psychological well-being. Leisure Sciences, 20, 25–52.

Kimball, A., & Freysinger, V. (2003). Leisure, stress, and coping: The sport participation of collegiate student-athletes. Leisure Sciences, 25, 115-141.

Leichliter, J. S., Meilman, P. W., Presley, C. A., & Cashin, J. R. (1998). Alcohol use and related consequences among students with varying levels of involvement in college athletics. Journal of American College Health, 46, 257–262.

Martens, M., Dams-O’Connor, K., Duffy, C., & Gibson, J. (2006). Perceived alcohol use among friends and alcohol consumption among college athletes. Journal of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behavior, 20(2), 178-184.

Rishe, P. (2003). A reexamination of how athletic success impacts graduation rates: Comparing student athletes to all other undergraduates. American Journal of Economics, 62(2), 407-427.

Sherburne, C., & Ruth, S. (2010). College athletes’ perceptions about relational development, communication and interpersonal competence. Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 70(9), 419-429.

Tucker, B. (1992). The Impact of Big-Time Athletics on Graduation Rates. Atlantic Economic Journal, 20, 65–73.

William, F., Tollison, D., & Goff, B. (1986). Pigskins and Publications. Atlantic Economic Journal, 14, 46–50.

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