Building a Good Relationship with Your Professor as a Student - Athlete

Building a relationship with your professor indicates a desire to improve and learn. This article explains why it is pertinent for students to take the time to cultivate a relationship with their professors.

By Ryan Adams — November 28, 2022

Building a Good Relationship with Your Professor as a Student - Athlete

Upon arriving on campus, I encountered teammates and friends who frequently complained about unfair professors who didn't understand the life of a student-athlete or even a college student. They didn't understand the exhaustion from practice, missing classes due to competition, and the general stress of the lifestyle. Or so they claimed. I adopted this mindset early, so I suffered the same poor relationships with my professors. After a few semesters of only getting along with the professors that would make an effort to reach out and connect, I decided that maybe the impetus lay with me to do the same with the ones that didn't.

The effects were immediate. My grades rose, my stress level dropped, and I began looking forward to classes instead of dreading them. Rather than complain about professors not making an effort to understand me and my lifestyle, I started to put in the effort to build the relationship so I could convey the stresses and pressures of being a student-athlete to them. This was only effective after establishing a good rapport with them in the first place. This article will discuss tips to build good relationships with your professors that students and student-athletes can utilize.

Communicate Your Schedule and Attend Your Classes

You'll know your competition schedule at the beginning of each semester, and the compliance department will likely provide you with excusals for classes you will miss due to competition or travel. On the first day of classes, make it a point to introduce yourself to your professor, communicate your situation, and provide a copy of your schedule to them, informing them you will be missing certain days of classes in the semester to come.

This accomplishes several things: First, you distinguish yourself among other students because you introduced yourself personally and not just during the syllabus day ice breaker. Next, you respect their class and position as your professor, which will go a long way with them. Last, you show you're responsible for yourself, committed to working with your professor, and that your athletic goals will not impede your academic goals. Remember that communicating solely at the beginning of the semester isn't sufficient. As competitions approach that necessitates missing class, remind your professors a week in advance so they can adequately prepare for your absence and inform you how you can make up for missing that lecture.

Most professors will have a maximum number of absences before it starts counting against your overall grade. Because you will be missing classes due to competition, it's essential to make every effort to attend every lecture you can. Attendance is the easiest box to check for any course, and doing so rather than skipping will benefit you in the long run with your grade and your academic reputation. If you are sick or have an emergency (note: a nap does not qualify as an emergency), be sure to communicate that to them in writing before you miss their class.

Be an Active Participant

If attendance is the bare minimum, participation is the next step toward building a good relationship with your professor. It's a way to prove that you have completed your homework and assigned readings and that you want to gain something from the class. At my university, class engagement was a relatively significant portion of our grades, and it was as simple as raising your hand once during a lecture to speak.

This will likely vary among schools and depend on the lecture size, but even if it's not required, it's a way to stand out among your peers. As an added benefit, staying engaged may allow you to enjoy a class more than you might expect, even if it's a general education requirement. Looking at the clock impatiently during a course you might not naturally find interesting will only serve to amplify your boredom. If you have to be there, make it easier on yourself by participating. You may even find a newfound academic interest in the process.

Go to Office Hours

Whether it's because you're trying to establish a good rapport, you don't understand the concepts you are discussing, or you need help with homework, it behooves you to sign up for at least one session outside of class with your professor. At the very least, you show you care about the course and its material by taking time outside of what is allotted to your class to discuss your performance with your professor. They will note that you are making an effort in their class, which can translate to a higher mark, and you will benefit from having one-on-one time to discuss where you are struggling in their class.

Learn Which Ones Are Worth the Effort

Admittedly, you may run into a professor who does not like students who miss their classes for any reason, even university-sponsored athletics. In my experience, these professors were few and far between, especially if you incorporate the abovementioned methods. Still, when you find yourself in one of these classes, it may be best to drop the course and add a different section. If nothing else is available and you need to take the course in that specific semester as a prerequisite to the major or other courses you would like to take in later semesters, bite the bullet and do your best to be blameless.

Don't give them a reason to hold anything against you. Continue the attempt to build a relationship, but don't stress if your efforts are fruitless. If giving 100% effort to do so yields marginal gains over 90% effort, it's best to cut your losses and put your efforts elsewhere.

Recognize They're People Too

It may seem obvious, but coming out of high school, you might view authority figures as intimidating fixtures in the university who have no understanding or care for the plight of a student-athlete. In reality, they're people with unique experiences, lives, and passions; at one point, they were students too. Ask them about themselves and their interests. If you've never read it, read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It includes practical wisdom such as becoming genuinely interested in other people, body language, and sincerely making the other person feel important.

Overall, professors help you learn your material and assess to what degree you have learned it. Doing your homework is one way to show progress, but building that relationship with your professor also indicates a desire to improve and learn. You'll find yourself with a higher GPA, more satisfaction, less stress, and a valuable network that can help you throughout college and beyond.

Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams is a professional runner currently based in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from Furman University in 2021 earning a bachelor's degree in Spanish Literature and Politics & International Studies, with an interdisciplinary minor in Latin American Studies.
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