BYU football player Bentley Redden works on homework before practice. (Shyler Johnson)

BYU student-athletes discuss the challenge of balancing school and sports

Superstars in the games, regular BYU students in the classroom. Being a student-athlete may seem like a daunting task and starting a new semester can be demanding when a student-athlete is worried about their next opponent, but there are many resources available to help them thrive.

The Student Athlete Life Learning Center is one such resource available to student-athletes that is essential to their success. The center helps student-athletes academically, mentally and physically through student mentors, academic advisement, mental health consultations and performance psychologists.

The Aims of BYU on the wall of the Student Athlete Life Learning Center. This center is a resource designed to help BYU student-athletes balance their workload. (Shyler Johnson)

According to the center’s website, the role of a student mentor is to “work with athletes for academic purposes” and focus specifically on time management, personal organization, studying techniques and helping student-athletes navigate the other resources available to them.

Family studies senior Kali McCleary works as a student mentor. When it comes to being in school and starting a new semester, McCleary said for student-athletes, “depending on whether or not their sport is in season, it can be stressful.” 

The Life Learning Center also offers tutors for the student-athletes for a range of classes, from Bio 100 and Econ 110 to American Heritage, Spanish and more. Student-athletes are encouraged to use these tutors, but sometimes this resource is overlooked.

Mechanical engineering student Ryan Gunn is an offensive lineman for the BYU football team. Gunn said tutors are readily available to students who need them but “It’s just a matter if we are willing to use them.”

A sign in the BYU Student Athlete Life Learning Center advertises tutoring services, one of many resources available for BYU student-athletes. (Shyler Johnson)

Gunn said there are also resources outside of the Life Learning Center that are essential to a student-athlete’s success at BYU. One is the professors the student-athletes have.

“During in-season semesters, we make sure teachers know what’s going on with us schedule-wise,” Gunn said. Because some sports require extensive travel, student-athletes are encouraged to communicate with professors to make sure they don’t fall behind.

Support is also available to student-athletes through their coaches and mentors. As the men’s basketball team moves into their conference games, head coach Mark Pope discussed how starting school affects his team.

“I think class can be really steadying for our guys,” Pope said. “Their schedule gets really busy and it gets really full and discretionary time starts to go away. But you kinda get in this rhythm and this routine of a grind.”

Alex Barcello looks to pass the ball during the game against Saint Mary’s on Jan. 8. Barcello is one of many BYU students trying to balance the challenge of being a student-athlete. (Decker Westenburg)

BYU senior and guard for men’s basketball, Alex Barcello, said it is “difficult, especially at this university,” to finding that rhythm. Finding this routine can be challenging, and it often means other things are lost, such as free time.

“That’s pretty much all we do. Just basketball and school. And we try to find a little bit of time for social life,” Barcello said.

Being a student-athlete is no easy task. It includes late nights, early mornings and long days filled with classes, homework, practices and games. It takes commitment and the ability to balance one’s priorities and be able to find a schedule that allows them to fit it all in a day.

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