It is no secret that NCAA college athletes have grueling schedules, both during the season and in the off season too. But, if you are truly passionate about playing college sports, then it can be a very rewarding experience. Here is what NCAA college athletes can expect their schedules to look like.
The NCAA has rules about how many hours a student athlete is allowed to spend on sports. These are called “Countable Hours.” Here are just some of the rules about countable hours.
- 4 hours per day
- 20 hours per week
- 1 day off per week
- 3 hours of competition
Out-of-Season (during academic year)
- 4 hours per day
- 8 hours per week
- 2 days off per week
These restrictions only apply to certain types of activities. These “countable” activities include: practices, competitions, meetings required by the coach, review of game film, and required weight training and conditioning.
Some activities are considered “noncountable.” The student athlete can partake in as many hours as he/she wishes. Some examples of noncountable activities include: tutoring, meetings initiated by the student, medical or rehab activities, voluntary sports activities initiated by the student, voluntary weight training not conducted by a coach, and promotional activities.
During the preseason practice period before classes begin, a student-athlete is only allowed to participate in voluntary activities.
Expect Many Games Packed into a Short Season
Each NCAA sport has its own season schedule. This will include conference tournaments leading up to a national tournament. You will have to look at your sport’s season schedule.
One thing you will notice is that many sports have very short seasons. For example, the NCAA soccer season is only about 3 months long. Starting at the end of August up until December, teams will take part in numerous games. If you win and are propelled to the national championships, then you will play in even more games. The 2015 NCAA Soccer Championship winners Stanford played in 22 games during the season! That comes out to 1 game each 4.8 days. These games take place all around the United States. Travel time is not counted as countable hours, and NCAA rules allow that travel time can be considered as your required day off.
Yes, it is thrilling to travel all across the USA to play against elite college teams and in competitive matches. But also don’t expect it to be very glamorous to have to catch up on your sleep and do your studying while packed in a bus with all your teammates.
How Much Time You Will Really Spend on Sports As an NCAA Athlete
There is a lot of controversy in the NCAA now about whether student-athletes are really students or employees. Part of the controversy has to do with a poll which found that student-athletes really spend much more than the allowed 20 hours on sports.
Because of the controversy and lawsuits, it is possible that the NCAA rules about countable hours may change in the near future. Until then, youths considering life as a student-athlete in the USA should rightfully wonder how they can balance academic and athletic requirements in order to get a meaningful education.
Choosing the Right School for Student-Athlete Balance
When young student athletes first start looking at colleges, they usually will first look at the big Division I institutions with impressive win records. However, these schools are the right choice for all student-athletes. The NCAA DI isn’t even the right choice for all students.
We recommend reading an article at Huffington Post in which 11 student athletes talk about their experiences. You will notice a recurring theme: the student-athletes who played at smaller, less-competitive schools in general had a better experience. Without as much pressure on them to win, they were able to better balance their lives as student-athletes, and also had more personal time.
As Andy McDonald who played baseball at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, said, “As you move up, people start taking it way too serious.” If you are serious about your sport and dream of playing professionally after college, then aim for a big D1 school. If you love your sport but don’t want to make it your entire life, then consider a smaller school or lower division. Not only will you have more time for academics, but your chances of getting a full-ride scholarship are better with these schools.