In the words of boys’ soccer captain David Perron, school sports are a “double-edged sword.” On the one hand, they improve productivity and motivation by dominating the leisure time during which many students slack off. But on the other, they are such a commitment that they can make it nearly impossible to find time for other priorities, particularly academics. The constant tension between academics and sports is an issue that deeply affects student-athletes.
“Sports have an absolute positive impact,” soccer coach Trevor Warner said. ”As a college athlete, I found myself doing better during the season.” This is a popular belief. A study by the California Department of Education determined that active students are likely to perform better in school than inactive students. “Sports improve my academic performance, because I always seem to have more energy and motivation to finish my homework,” senior field hockey player Miranda Zhou said.
Some students find that sports improve their study habits. “I seem to do better in school when I’m playing a sport, because I go to the library during lunch, and sometimes during my study hall depending on how much work I have,” Perron said.
However, one’s efficacy in maintaining a successful academic record during the season is ultimately based on individual abilities. Logically, it takes a certain amount of skill to do well in classes even when there is not enough time to do so; consequently, there are a number of students who cannot manage.
“If someone is not able to be at practice or a game, if someone can’t play their role on the field, the whole team is affected,” Warner said. One such example is senior Mihai Toma, a star varsity soccer player, whose father has removed him from the team several times over the last three seasons, in an effort to improve his academic performance. “My dad took me out because he wanted me to prepare for the SAT, and that really affected me because I know I could have gotten some sort of scholarship for soccer,” Toma said. “I love soccer and it sucks a lot.”
Time-management is exceedingly difficult, even for those who manage sports and academics well. “I’m usually averaging, like, five hours of sleep. But it’s still a valuable experience,” said senior cross country runner Arjun Sriram, who juggles sports, school, a job, and kung-fu lessons. Sometimes, sports events run late, leaving athletes with little time and no energy left to complete their homework. “Some days, I will have two or three big tests the day after an away game,” Perron said.
There is a limit to how much students can fit in to a schedule before they explode. For instance, most student athletes find it impossible to participate in clubs, because they have no time left over at the end of the day. “When it comes to, like, other extracurriculars and college apps, sports leave no time,” Zhou said.
But what if our packed schedules fall apart and sports make it impossible to keep our heads above water? “Obviously, soccer is very important to me, but at the end of the day, I’m not planning on being a professional athlete. Academics give you a solid base for the rest of your life,” Perron said.