Olivia Liu, '24
Sports, especially at the high school level, are extremely demanding. Both in-school and club sports practices often span a couple hours, much of which is occupied by constant movement. Workouts are strenuous, and students are expected to push themselves to reach their highest potential, whether it be in strength, speed, or agility.
The high physical (and mental) intensity of sports often leads to exhaustion. Along with the fatigue comes lack of motivation, and often, students are forced to slog through the pages of their assignments. The half-heartedness of their work routine can further result in lack of comprehension—it’s difficult to understand taught concepts if your greatest battle at the moment is staying awake. Students are left to arrive at class the following day only to be puzzled by the pop quiz a teacher gives. An additional effect of tiredness is a lower quality of work. Students attempt to rush through their assignments in pursuit of rest, sacrificing the time taken to thoroughly consider the formulas they use on a math assignment, quotes in their close readings, or lab analysis.
A big argument that uplifts athletes from those who do not play sports is that the daily practices, weekly sport games, and weekend home workouts develop good time management. Athletes are forced to find ways to squeeze homework time into their sports schedule, resulting in their keen awareness of the need for task efficiency, concentration, and use of idle time. However, productivity only comes with motivation, and again, the fatigue of playing a sport causes many students to both be easily distracted and unlikely to use unfilled time efficiently.
There’s also the elephant in the room: endless practices, bus rides, and late-night games at times make it impossible to complete all assigned tasks. Students often get home late; daily conversations with friends have at times turned to rants about how a late-night sports game or Saturday practices make homework and studying impossible to complete. Athletes’ tight schedules often force them to choose between getting enough sleep and finishing their assignments on time. Given the rigorous academic curriculums of both NCS and STA, the tough decision often favors sacrificing rest, leading students to become even more exhausted. Evidently, this leads to a vicious cycle.
One challenge of being a student-athlete, especially on the Close (given the compulsory sports requirement) is deciding which to prioritize. Logically, an academics-focused student would choose to exert more energy on their schoolwork, perhaps participating in a sport simply to meet the credit, not dedicating any more time than necessary. The opposite would be true to an athletics-driven student. Ironically, however, several students feel an imbalance that does not adhere to their desired focuses and priorities. They find themselves spending three hours on a sport without being particularly passionate or committed. Other students feel difficulty in prioritizing their tasks. Since both school and athletics are crammed into one day, both can seem like a significant part of each student’s commitments. Often, students hope to participate in more academically oriented extra-curricular activities, such as clubs, but are unable to due to the looming presence of athletic commitments. Thus comes the question of whether it's worth participating in a time-consuming sport that is not of particular interest or passion.
Of course, however, after-school sports are widely seen as an outlet to relaxing from the academic stress of an eight-hour school day. One student states, “Because it’s so much fun, you’re looking forward [to it]. It’s less of an obligation.” Without a break between classes and homework time, academics could weigh heavily on each student’s day—physical activity might be crucial to preventing a burnout. Sports provide another thing to think about other than how much schoolwork you have. In that sense, sports could be the way to refresh oneself, rather than a way to deplete energy.
For the majority of students on the Close, sports are a daily, integral part of school life. However, the push and pull of physical activity to academic study varies for each individual—each person’s balance is different. At times, it’s difficult to strike that equilibrium, leading to negative effects on either side. However, many would still argue that sports can offer an inclusive niche within a large student body, help maintain fitness, and aid in de-stressing from the school workload. Thus, the choice to prioritize academics or athletics falls largely in the hands of each student.