Are teenagers struggling or thriving with their academics and athletics?

Should I take time to practice my sport, or should I study for my next test?

By Olivia Trujillo

Molepo destroying the competition over 400m at a Puma School of Speed meet at the Ruimsig Stadium last month where she ran 54.50. Photo Credit: Tobias Ginsberg.

Across the United States, student-athletes are trying their best to keep up with their school and sports schedules. Students from grades 6-12 who actively play sports throughout the school year are struggling to manage their academics and their athletics simultaneously. Student-athletes need to know that they aren’t alone in feeling stressed about managing their academics and athletics. What more can we do for these young athletes?

Students are busy regardless of having extracurriculars after school, but with extra sports, daily life becomes undeniably complicated. Not only do student-athletes have to juggle their academics, but the sport they love and have committed to. Battling between which is more important can be a big problem, not to mention how conflicting it is to not have time for one or the other if they are both equally important to them. This is a common issue for many high schoolers and college students. How do you choose which benefits you more? Which is better for your young physical, emotional, and mental health? How can we understand and help these desperate student-athletes?

An estimated 8 million high schoolers participate in sports throughout the school year. Nearly all of these teenagers struggle with their emotional, physical, and mental health. Stress ranging from regular teenage emotions to family life, to academics, to sports, are just a few of the many stresses student-athletes face. Students who play sports throughout the school year are easy targets for being affected by academic and athletic stress. Across the United States students are trying their best to keep up with academics and athletics. Even during their breaks and summers, they could be experiencing a load of anxiety from their only time to truly catch up with their education, not to mention the extra strain of preparing to play their sport. It is that questioning feeling of, “How will I ever be good enough?” that truly eats up student-athletes. To help young athletes, they must understand that they are not alone in their misery of trying to balance academics and athletic schedules.


College Student-Athlete Health and Well-being AUGUST 30, 2021 Lauren McQuade

Hearing from a local student, 8th grader Zoie Velander explains, “Yeah, it is tough to be a student-athlete. For the past 5 years, I’ve been playing at least one if not two sports at a time. It’s draining.” Keep in mind that Zoie is only in eighth grade, meaning that she has been playing competitive sports since she was just a 4th grader. Imagine the stress it will cause in high school! When asked she responded, “Yes, I am scared about high school. I’ve been told the workload in high school is a lot more heavy and sports are a very hardcore commitment. There isn’t much time during the 5-day week to get it done. The only time is on the weekends, which would probably be filled with homework that I couldn’t finish during the week because of the time constraints of sports.” Zoie also mentions that she’s noticed a big bias in male vs. female student-athletes. She noticed that “Boys seem to act like they don’t care about their academics and being too focused on school is a girl’s thing.” Zoie mentioned that this would further the stereotype that sports are for boys who are too lazy to do their school work, which is why girls aren’t built for sports. Despite this just being a stereotype/theory, it does contribute to the inconveniences of being a student-athlete. The constant feeling of not belonging could be another factor that eats up these athletes. 

“For the past 5 years, I’ve been playing at least one if not two sports at a time. It’s draining.”

(Zoie Velander, 2023)

Regardless of all these stress-contributing factors, sports are still a big getaway for many young people. They can serve as a safe place for teens to find confidence, mental and physical stability, and even good friends. In retrospect, the positives of athletics typically outway the negatives. Some positives of being a student-athlete are that you might find more friends that you can relate to. Another thing is that you are healthier, physically and mentally. Many studies have proven that playing sports does positively affect your mental health. Moving your body, especially when you are capable and young, can decrease feelings of anxiety and stress. If you’ve had a tough day at school, sports after school can help clear your head and exert some pent-up emotions. 

In the future, many student-athletes would agree that being a part-time athlete and student is challenging and they deserve more empathy. Every student will at some point or another experience stress related to academics, and athletes can experience the same sort of emotion but relating to their sport. Despite the stress athletics may cause, many people could not live without them. Sports tend to bring so much joy to so many players. Zoie ends with, “…playing sports really benefited me, I’ve met some of my best friends through athletics. Playing sports also taught me so many great life lessons and I honestly cannot imagine my life without it.”

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