In the American culture, which is surrounded by sports and athletes, the argument of education vs. sports entertainment has become a common phenomenon. However, the factor of mental health is another element to consider when combining the topic of sports and school.
“Although I am only in one sport, golf, the matches would go late, and fitting in all the things I need to get done was hard at times. I, of course, prioritize getting my homework done, but I would find myself exhausted and wanting to sleep right when I got home rather than being motivated to get everything done,” said junior Mackenna Lavin.
School requires time even when not physically in school. For student athletes, this can become complicated when trying to participate in practices, as well as focus on their education. To compete in their sport at North, student athletes must have good grades and complete enough practices during the week.
“Mental health is huge in any sport you play, a lot of it is mental thinking. It’s important to me because when I’m down and stressed out I know for a fact that I’m not fully invested into my sport,” said junior Ray Shoemaker.
“If I’m not fully invested, I’m not going to play my best and that maybe I’ll lose minutes or I won’t play as much in a game or I won’t start. Mental health is huge because it makes me more confident in myself, and I know I have talent that I’m not fully using because my mental health isn’t there.”
It is sometimes not evident how each student will perceive high school when in a sport. While some may struggle, others may flourish despite the adversity they may face.
“Freshman year was probably the hardest year for me. I played three sports my freshman year, and that was hard for me because my grades weren’t very good that year due to being a three sport athlete. Last year, I realized that I had to step it up and make it better. The saying goes student athlete and not athlete student for a reason, and I’ve realized that my education is very important,” Shoemaker said.
Along with pressure from school, mental health, and their sport, student athletes are sometimes expected to perform their best in all aspects in life. While those expectations may come off as unreasonable, some student athletes enjoy the pressure.
“I definitely think there are higher standards for student athletes just because they’re athletes and expected to perform better in what they do. I definitely believe that student athletes are under more pressure, and I think that pressure can influence students positively and negatively. Personally, I like the pressure because it keeps me going in school and in basketball,” said junior Ryan Connolly.
There are ways to relieve the stress of being a student athlete. These strategies may include different tactics when studying or different things to do when relaxing during free time.
“A piece of advice I have for student athletes is to find ways to stay positive. As cliché as that is, it truly is important to maintain a healthy mental health and mindset. It is extremely understandable if stress is present, but finding ways to relax and not be overwhelmed is essential,” Lavin said. “For example, if you have a lot of homework, I recommend not looking at it all at once because that will cause you to be more stressed. Just do one thing at a time, take breaks, and remember there are people that can help you whether it’s teachers, your friends, coaches, parents, and counselors.”
However, when the stress begins to feel persistent and, there are places to receive help with education and support in general. Staff at school or coaches may be people to consider talking to when in need of assistance.
“My coaches and my teachers have helped me a lot. The ARC has also helped me. I’ve been there multiple times when I felt that I wouldn’t be able to catch up in work, and everyone in there helped me get through it and it made me feel a lot better,” Connolly said.