Scaling the Ivy Wall: Being a Student-Athlete In the Ivy League


Being a Student-Athlete in the Ivy League

As I step outside after a grueling swim practice, my eyes are drawn to the green ivy leaves gripping the building for dear life. There is a small clear patch on the wall, giving way to read the words – Teagle Hall. Our home facility. The place we come to after a difficult day of classes. Where fast times are dropped and team memories are made. But the surrounding ivy leaves can provide challenges and disruptions for those who aren’t familiar with the building or the Cornell campus. This metaphor can translate into the experience of an Ivy League student-athlete. Being successful in the Ivy League requires efficient navigation of these leaves that can sometimes feel so daunting, but are some of the greatest experiences one can ever receive. 

Tip #1 – Be Proactive!

I have recently entered my third semester at Cornell University, and I have already learned so much about the importance of time management and being proactive. Being a student-athlete means dedicating three to five hours a day solely for training, which requires proactive planning for academics and social activities. A tip I have greatly benefited from is planning my day around my practice schedule. As soon as my coach sends it out, I add each workout to my Google Calendar, along with my class schedule. This helps me stay on track throughout the day and make sure I am never caught off guard with assignment due dates, exams, and meets.

Tip #2 – Recovery is Vital

With Cornell’s large campus and double practice/lift days, I have learned I need to fuel my body for success differently than non-athletes. Even just walking to classes throughout the day is exhausting, and in order to have a good afternoon workout, I need to have extra energy in reserve to make progress in the pool. Along with planning out my class schedule and workouts, I also plan out meals and snacks throughout the day.

Our team recently had a talk with a nutritionist who provided us with plenty of great resources on the types of snacks we should be consuming throughout the day, whether before or after a workout. I also follow a strict sleep schedule, especially with 6 a.m. practice two days a week. With exam season starting up, it can be challenging to get to bed on time some days, so I try to supplement with 30-minute power naps. Our bodies are like machines, and we need to treat them with care if we want to perform at this high of a level.

Tip #3 – Balance is Key

When people hear the phrase Ivy League, there is always a reputation associated with all work and no fun. In order to maximize the efforts from the daily grind that comes with being a student-athlete, you have to find activities that can take your mind off the stress. I have found that my love for sports and outdoor activities have helped me relieve stress. At Cornell, I can go on hikes and explore gorges with friends, as well as go for runs and bike rides throughout the Ithaca area. During these trips, my mind can simply enjoy the nature surrounding me, which I have found are some of my favorite places to be on campus.

While the wall may look scary and hard to tackle, the experience of being an Ivy League student-athlete leads to development of crucial skills and unforgettable moments. But it requires dedication, hard work, and a positive mindset to be successful and reap the benefits. It isn’t going to be easy, but it is incredibly rewarding to see how you can grow as a student-athlete and an individual.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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Vincent Mauro
Vincent Mauro
1 year ago

Great article!

1 year ago

Awesome piece! Excited for more!

1 year ago

Let’s go Lexie!! How insightful!

Coach Scott
Coach Scott
1 year ago

One of the reasons fortune 500 companies recruit athletes is that they have great time managements skills. My oldest also went to Cornell and was in the 1V for Rowing, He lettered all 4 years and the pandemic was a huge challenge as well with training restrictions and competition opportunities being shorted. Time management and commitment were vital and protecting one’s sleep was as well. Same is true for any college sport so kudos to you for passing this wisdom along!!

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