[Editor’s note: Cassidy Lichtman was a first-year assistant coach in 2016 when she won a national championship with Stanford University, her alma mater. Lichtman, a two-time First Team All-American during her playing days, wrote thoughtful articles for PrepVolleyball.com during her high school days at Francis Parker, where she was a two-time California state champion. This piece was written when she was a 16-year-old junior. I substituted “SnapChat” for “IM” to make it contemporary].
Aaauuugggghhhh! This sound echoes through every teenager’s head as she slumps into her chair, finally answering the call of that dreaded mountain of homework. Head pounding, she contemplates how to manipulate time so that she can finish all her work in the little time that she has before she has to go to volleyball practice. She allows herself a moment to think about how she is going to miss her favorite television show tonight and how she has not seen her friends in a while. That is what the weekend is for, right? She looks back to her work; maybe if she’s lucky she might have time for dinner.
The picture is pretty dismal but it happens a lot. So many kids today have to be master schedulers just to keep their lives going. It’s not like when our parents were kids, when they did their homework and went outside until their moms called them in for supper. Every minute of the day is scheduled and the family dinner is a rare occurrence. Kids today do it all, partly because that is the expectation. They are supposed to do well in school, excel in sports, and master an instrument. All that brings activity-filled days and stress-filled nights to many kids.
Life often resembles a juggling act and it is important to know how to balance it all. If you pay too much attention to one thing, you might accidentally drop something else. You have to decide how much you can do without compromising your ability to do the rest. Prioritizing is also important. If you juggle an egg, an apple, and an orange, which is the one that you do not want to drop? In my family, academics are a big priority. That does not mean, however, that I will let it affect my performance on the court. You have to learn how to keep the egg and the apple in the air.
Now that we’ve gotten through that extended metaphor, I can’t say how to schedule time or give a formula for success. Each kid can handle different amounts of stress or activities. Some have better time-management skills or get their work done faster. Time management is extremely important for the survival of a high school student. Self- discipline is also significant. It is difficult to get work done when you are also watching TV, talking on SnapChat and texting your friends. Most kids would probably be surprised to see how little time homework actually takes without these minor distractions.
Volleyball can add to some people’s stress. I know that most volleyball players skip practice sometimes to study for a big test or finish a project. To me volleyball is a release from all that. I know that when I step into the gym all of the stress, all of the problems, are going to go away. They are still going to be there when I am done but at least I have a couple of hours that let me get away from it all. And, you know somehow, my projects always get done, I’m ready for the test the next day, and maybe I’m just a little bit less stressed-out than my classmates.
The recruiting process can also add some stress that kids otherwise would not have to deal with. Most freshman and sophomores are not thinking about what colleges to start communicating with, and normal juniors do not have to worry about where they are going quite yet. It is really just a different timeline than everybody else has, though. It is hard to think about college when you are fifteen years old but going into senior year already knowing what you are going to do will relieve some stress.
The bottom line is that everyone’s life is chaotic, demanding, and amazing. Sometimes instead of thinking of all the things we still have to do, we need to enjoy just what we are doing at that moment. Because besides all that, life is short, and we can plan our days and pack our schedules, but if you don’t love what you’re doing, then what’s the point, really? Now I would love to write some more, but I have a tournament tomorrow, and AP tests starting next week, and a recital coming up, and homework to be done, and…