The student-athlete balance -- honing in on success and avoiding failure

By: Osahon Emmanuel 

Many high school student athletes reach a crossroad in their career where they find themselves weighing the pros and cons of how athletics affects school, and vice-versa. You want to keep improving on the court and in the classroom. But how do you balance sports and grades?

Proper Planning and Communication is Key:
Coordinate with your teachers and your coaches at the beginning of the year so everyone knows what is going on. Your coach should know when a difficult exam is coming up, and your teacher should be aware of the big rivalry game far ahead of time. Looming class work deadlines can feel overwhelming mid-season and it can be easy to just go on auto-pilot and pretend they don’t exist. Communicating the complexity of your schedule to your coach and teachers will take some of that burden off your back.


Utilize Study Groups and modern technology tools:

Technology and information have never been more accessible. Study groups have long been recommended for student athletes to maximize their performance in the classroom, and technology advancements in collaboration tools have turned this strong suggestion into a mandatory rule of thumb. Web applications like Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Slides, One Note, and DropBox allow for increased flexibility during collaboration amongst teams regardless of everyone’s physical location. Follow this link to learn more about Google Docs and other collaboration tools.

Partner with people in your classes who don’t have the same schedule you do, and make sure you provide value when you can to show that you are committed to the group’s success and not just your own. Split up assignments and review sessions as appropriate.


Seek Help If You Need IT:

Student Athletes are less likely to seek help for anxiety and depression than their non-athlete peers. Anxiety and depression relating to classroom performance can feel like an insurmountable burden. But you are not alone. Talk to your peers, teachers, and coach about the difficulties you face. There is no shame in needing help. Your mental well-being is just as important as your physical health. Proper maintenance of both is the key to success on and off the field.


Sleep More:

In 2014 the NCAA conducted a study that showed a strong correlation between students sleeping habits and their performance in the classroom. “Among those who said they are experiencing difficulty sleeping, 34 percent indicated that sleep difficulties resulted in a lower grade on an exam or test, and an additional 13 percent reported that it resulted in a lower grade in the course. (Davoren, Hwang. NCAA)”. The National Sleep Foundation reports that the average teen needs between 8 and 9.5 hours of sleep each night. For student athletes who expend additional energy on the field this rest period is essential to ensure peak performance in class. Sleep deprivation can lead to severe changes in mood and increase the risk of depression, all of which have demonstrably negative effects on academic performance. Make sure you are getting enough rest!

Ryan Sypkens