Academics vs. Sports: What are the benefits?

By Arwyn Shoemaker - For The Tribune

The role of sports in high school has been a controversial topic for many years. Some say students need to focus more on their academics and forget about sports, while others say school should be fun and sports make it so.

A multitude of studies have shown that the benefits of participating in a sport far outweigh any potential risk. One of the major concerns of students spending time participating in sports is that they take away from vital class time, and they can also provide a higher amount of unnecessary stress on an already overloaded student. Often, student athletes are attempting to balance sports, difficult classes (AP or honors), social lives, family time, jobs outside of school, and several other obligations.

Removing sports from the equation would free up students’ lives and make for a potentially less stressful environment. However, unless it is a sport forced on the student by well-meaning parents or other adults, studies show the benefits of sports on student athletes are greatly beneficial to the overall well-being of the student. Students who played sports exhibited either improved academic scores, or they maintained their current level of academic grading.

Overall, studies show that students who play sports do not allow their commitment to their team to affect their commitment to their education. As mentioned, grades often improve for the student athlete.

Another benefit to playing high school sports is that athletes also tend to have increased self-confidence which can be beneficial both on and off the field. Being on a sports team is not easy and requires enormous amounts of determination and preparation in the off season to prepare for the physical and mental challenges they will face during their sports season. A benefit to building and maintaining physical fitness, students often feel more mentally fit and more confident about themselves. This can then lead to an overall boost in confidence in the way one speaks and acts around others, including peers, teachers, and other adults.

The opportunity to join a sports teams allows students to become friends with other students who they may not have had the chance to meet/come in contact with. It is not uncommon for freshmen to find friendships with upper-level classmen. From my own personal experience, I became friends with seniors when I was a freshman. I still talk to those people and consider them friends. Currently, I am a senior, and now have the opportunity to become friends with freshmen that I may not have met or had the privilege to get to know. It also allows for the strengthening of existing relationships. Forming and strengthening friendships is just one of the many perks of playing on sports teams.

Being a part of a sports team also allows for character building for the future years to come. As a student athlete, there are many activities and responsibilities to juggle, and staying focused and on top of these responsibilities requires time management skills. Communication skills are also something developed and strengthened. To be successful on the field, athletes must have the communication skills needed to interact with their teammates, coaches, and even players on the opposing team in order to succeed. This skill transfers into their future outside of high school and allows them to effectively communicate with coworkers and bosses.

I conducted an anonymous survey in the Elkin High School student body for athletes only. They were to list their grade level, gender, and sport they played. The survey consisted of 10 questions referring to academic standing, a decrease or increase in confidence levels, friendships made, drug and alcohol choices, and miscellaneous skills learned. Out of the 400 students in Elkin High School, 148 responded to the survey. Almost all student athletes surveyed, freshmen through senior, answered that their academics have either improved or remained the same and did not suffer due to the time commitment of sports. Confidence levels were reported to increase in students across each grade level.

The likelihood of trying drugs and/or alcohol was not even a question in the athletes’ minds. Either they did not have time to try them, the students were fearful of ruining their potential of playing college level sports, or they feared drug tests and being removed from the team and school. Of the 148 students surveyed, 100 percent said they formed new and unlikely friendships and were grateful to sports for the opportunity to meet new people. An overwhelming number of students that were surveyed also said they have improved their time management skills, learned to push through with determination skills, are learning to accept criticism and allow it to make them better athletes and people, and continue to develop skills related to persevering through difficulty.

Though sports do decrease the amount of time a student has each day to give to homework, research projects, or that dreaded calculus test, research and my own personal survey show that participating in sports have benefits that reach farther than a faster swim time or a better touch with the ball. Students are learning valuable lessons about how to be successful in their lives and, ultimately, how to become team players in a world outside the four walls of high school.

Arwyn Shoemaker is a senior at Elkin High School working on her senior project.

By Arwyn Shoemaker

For The Tribune