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The Goods and Bads of Being a Student Athlete

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At school all day, study, study, study – only to leave and go to practice to sweat and condition. All for what? Is it for your parents? Is it for you? Every day, student-athletes have to find a perfect balance between school, studies, sports, and sports practice.  Sometimes balancing the two can be difficult as it pushes teens to be stressed and unfocused during school. According to a survey I conducted with 11 other student-athletes, all 11 people said they have lost sleep, causing them to have to make up for that sleep during the school day.

When teens have a certain commitment to their sport they play on higher levels to achieve athletic scholarships for college. Those teams have practice and conditioning sessions that are more demanding and students have to balance it all with their classes. When a lot of one’s time is spent working out and studying, one’s brain begins to slow down. Oftentimes, teens will oversleep or undersleep due to the sheer workload they are given by coaches and teachers.


Additionally, parents apply extra pressure, pushing their teens to do well in school or their sport. Many parents unconsciously pressure their kids because they want their teens to receive a full-ride athletic/academic scholarship. With certain parenting types, teens aren’t allowed to pick their path. Parents will either force athleticism upon them, force them to be an academic weapon, or both. A lot of student-athletes claim to feel pressured by their parents to do well in their commitments.

Mental health can be negatively affected by trying to balance both. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) conducted an experiment in 2020 about the mental health of student athletes. Nearly 9,800 of the 10,000 student-athletes surveyed reported declining mental health and increasing stress levels. This can lead to other health concerns, as well. Believe Perform says that female athletes typically have more eating disorders due to the worry of not being able to perform at their best in their sports. 

According to Global Sports Matter, adults can create even more tension that being perfect in your sport is a must and that failing is simply not an option. On the contrary, failing is a huge learning opportunity. While you shouldn’t dwell on your mistakes and take them to heart, you can learn from them instead and use them to better yourself. Under certain circumstances, some kids are used as ego boosters for their parents and are used as nothing but trophies. In some parents’ eyes, their accomplishment is their achieving child, while in other parents’ eyes, they want their child to simply be happy doing whatever they love. Nazir Caldwell, 14, a student-athlete who attends Westlake High School explained to me that his parents “Push him to get an athletic scholarship in track,” which is oftentimes aggravating and stressful. Naz has fortunately been able to find a comfortable balance between school and sports and does well academically and athletically. 

While there are many downsides to having to handle both, there are some positives that come along with it. Many people who play sports enjoy them whether they see it as a hobby or as a career. These people who love to work for all they have, are rewarded with a career that’s simply doing what they love. Both people with good work ethics and people who have a genuine love for their sport both fall under the same category of those who will put their all into their sport. Staying physically fit is another upside to playing sports. When someone works out and sees results, confidence is built inside of them. Their mental image of themselves is increased and they see the best in themselves. The pure joy that comes from doing what you love helps also helps you find a certain calm inside yourself. For example, competing in tournaments and games,  reward the athlete with trophies and medals, boosting their dopamine. The feeling of accomplishment and pride gives a huge ego boost. Sometimes people underestimate how hard it is to manage both, and those who are in the struggle don’t know how to properly solve their dilemma. Sometimes the simplest things such as going to your coach for advice can help. Maybe even taking a small break. When I reached a rough point in my academic career, I had to stop my sport just to get the issue resolved. Balance is all about compromising, and nobody is perfect, so pausing going to practices to continue doing their best in school can be necessary sometimes. 

When playing sports and going to school collide, you must be headstrong and find a balance. Both school and athletics can be stressful but both can have a good side once you find it. Sports sometimes offer a refuge for people who don’t enjoy their time at home. They find a drive and a goal to reach towards to keep themselves at their best. Stress comes along with an imbalance of the two, so making sure you’re always mentally ready by taking breaks works wonders. The life of a student-athlete can be hard, but in the end, the rewarding feeling you get from all your hard work can easily outweigh the difficulties and obstacles they faced.

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