Smarts vs. Sports: Balancing School and Athletics

Help your student athlete win in sports and smarts with these 6 simple tips.

By: Katrina Simeck

Student athletes need to learn how to multitask as they are faced with the challenge of balancing the demands of school and sports. And while you love watching your sports star take first place or score a career high, you may be wondering how you can help your child succeed in academics, too, and plan for their future.

Understand Expectations
Many schools host “sports nights” before the start of each season, where administrators explain the school’s academic and athletic policies, and individual coaches detail their expectations. Students and parents both need to be clear on the school’s absence policy, minimum grade point averages for sports eligibility and athlete behavior.

It’s also important to understand how those factors affect playing time and what other metrics the coaches may be using. Many coaches insist on a higher GPA than the baseline school requirement, so it’s good to know that upfront.

Teach Time Management
Student athletes pack more responsibilities into their already crammed schedules, with early morning workouts and after-school practices. Sit down with your child and help define a daily schedule that accommodates sports schedules, schoolwork, socializing and sleep.

Tip: Help your athlete keep all that sports equipment organized.

Demonstrate Open Communication
When conflicts about sports and schoolwork arise, encourage your student to communicate directly with his coaches and teachers about what he or she needs to be successful. If agreements can’t be reached, don’t hesitate to advocate for your child.

Fuel Them Well
Early morning practices may mean grabbing an energizing snack on the way out the door, so stock easy-to-eat, portable, high-protein snacks to fend off hunger and keep performance on the field – and in the classroom – at its highest. Sleep is also key, so help your student athlete minimize late-night homework and get to bed at a reasonable time.

Establish Good Homework Habits, Including Study Halls
If your student’s schedule permits, encourage him to work in a study hall. Many schools have a reduced PE requirement for athletes, which may free up a class period. Student athletes can use this time to stay a step ahead of their homework to allow more time after school for sports and socializing. Study groups can be helpful, and some coaches may even be willing to schedule team study time before major exams or group assignments.

Watch for Signs of Burnout
Being well rounded does not mean being the best at everything – trying to be team captain, valedictorian and club president may be too much. Check in regularly on how they’re really doing, but skip the standard “How was school?” and get specific: Ask about assignments and future tests or their confidence level about an upcoming game. If you hear that they’re feeling worn out, talk through possible solutions.

We all want our kids to succeed in school and sports, and striking the right balance is possible with teamwork and dedication – in the classroom, on the field and at home.

Katrina Simeck is a single working mom on a quest to find a balance (or at least a little bit of Zen) between work and play. By day, she's a project manager for a cosmetics company; by night, she channels her creative energy into writing, crafting and photography. She is a staff writer at Parenting Squad.



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