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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Involvement in sports can help students, but balance is key

Here is a post Mary-Louise developed originally for Suite 101.  It has been one of her most viewed articles on that site.

There is no question that trying to balance high school academic requirements and playing sports can be a tricky – and sometimes unsuccessful – balancing act.
Whether a young person plays for a local “Club” team or for a school team, it means time, extra practice and attention diverted away from the primary purpose of high school – learning and achieving a strong academic performance to prepare for a successful future.
At times, when a student struggles in school, one of the first things parents do is prohibit their son or daughter from playing sports. Those parents make a link between poor academic results and too much time and attention paid to participating in sports. That may well be a legitimate connection to make, in some cases. Parents generally “know their child best” and obviously seek the very best for their children as they help guide them through the often difficult teenage years.
Nevertheless, sports involvement, properly managed, can also bring many positives to their life. Importantly, that extra-curricular commitment may in fact bring tangible academic rewards as well.

How Sports Can Prepare Students for Academic Success

The following are just a few ways a student may see increased school performance as a result, at least in part, of involvement in competitive athletics. (For more in depth research read the "Relationship Between Athletic and Academic success: A Pilot Study", by Danielle Tower of the University of Connecticut.)
Youth Sports as a Confidence Builder and a Positive Social Activity

In the right environment (e.g. playing for a youth sports coach with the right values) a boy or girl can really come out of their “shell” and express themself through sport. Their confidence builds and that can be taken directly into the classroom.
There are obviously no guarantees, but when a young person is busy with stimulating (and hopefully enjoyable!) involvements like sports, there is less time to be tempted to fall off the path into relationships and activities that may lead to problems. There can be a tendency for a student who is busy through positive pursuits to be engaged, focused and self-disciplined. These student-athletes learn that they need to focus and recognize that they must lead disciplined lives. They can still enjoy themselves and take advantage of “being young”, but they will also understand that discipline can help lead to achievement and success.
Students Who Learn to Manage Time and Prioritize Will Succeed

Time management became a buzzword over the past twenty years, but there is no question it is important for young people to understand this concept as they prepare for life after school and in the so-called “real world”. Learning to balance one’s time between community involvements, school demands, social interests and proper rest and athletic pursuits pushes a young person to recognize the value of “planned time” – creating a schedule and sticking to it.
This leads to the important notion of prioritizing. A busy young person, occupied in creative and healthy activities, will need to make decisions about not only time management but will need to prioritize what is most important—and what needs to be done to complete particular tasks in order of importance.
Focus and Concentration Contribute to Being a Good Athlete and a Good Student

Competitive sports demand a high level of concentration. If an athlete can “focus” on the playing field, this may well help them understand the need to focus on school-related tasks.
Involvement and success breeds more involvement and more success. A student who gets involved in healthy pursuits will often be energized by those commitments. Success does not mean “winning” games. Success means being involved, training, working hard, being disciplined, and developing leadership skills. When a young person shows these traits in sports, this attitude and skill set are transferrable to the classroom
Athletes need to make instantaneous, quick decisions on the field of play. Sometimes they make mistakes but that only helps the learning process. How does a young person learn, if they never have the opportunity to try, make errors, and try again? In school, in business and in life in general, everyone has to become a decision-maker and sports can sometimes help youngsters develop this important trait.
Supportive and Realistic Parents Can Help their Child to Achieve Success

Parents, of course, need to understand their own child – their passions, interests and limitations. What good ever comes from forcing unnecessary demands or expectations?
In the same breath, most children need to be – and in fact want to be – stimulated, nudged, encouraged and challenged. Sports can be part of that challenge.
Parents obviously should not push their children unrealistically or make unreasonable demands. A youngster who struggles academically may still benefit from being active in sports but it may not be realistic to expect a 4.0 GPA.
To succeed in sports, most young people have to work hard. Not everyone is a naturally gifted athlete, just as most people aren’t naturally gifted students. However, the lessons learned from the gym, track, and hockey rink or playing field often provide lessons for school – and beyond.

1 comment:

  1. Sports can be a huge self-esteem booster. Being part of a team provides you with the sense of camaraderie and support we all crave, but still allows for individuals to shine. Above all, sports teach us how to play on a team. That skill can be useful everywhere in our lives.