Whether you are a professional, semi-professional or amateur athlete, life balance is crucial for overall happiness and athletic performance.
Too often athletes, younger ones especially, put 'all their eggs in one basket' in their pursuit to becoming an elite athlete. This involves neglect of their schooling or work commitments in favour of training more or enjoying the social activities associated with their sport. If their athletic dream doesn't pan out, they are left in a hole where other aspects of their life have not been adequately developed.
Life balance is important for professional and semi-professional athletes too. While semi-professional athletes are often forced to dedicate time to their work or career to live, professional athletes can fall into the trap of only training and competing in their sport and failing to develop themselves outside of that. Options include study, work experience, learning new skills or having a hobby to provide a mental 'release' from the game. Anecdotal reports tell us that the highest performers on field prioritise developing themselves off field. This may seem counter intuitive but the benefits make sense. Off field development gives us more 'dimensions', allow us to learn new things, find different interests, make new social connections and stimulate the brain in other ways. When it comes time to perform again, the athlete is fresher mentally, has added perspective and can perform optimally.
Study and work commitments are a must for pretty much all of us. Try and find something that challenges you as a person, while at the same time complementing your athletic pursuits. It might also be wise to embrace less physically taxing hobbies for athletes, such as fishing, reading, cooking or learning a musical instrument. I probably wouldn't take up marathoning in my spare time from my gymnastics!
Bottom line, schedule time for your chosen sport for adequate training, preparation and competition. Equally, find time to develop yourself as a person academically or career wise, catch up socially with friends and family and don't be afraid of trying new things!