School plus sports equals no sleep

By Maarten Van-Genabeek
Published: September 2010

Students who play sports at their schools are part of a select few known as student-athletes.
Although people tend to group and stereotype athletes, they don’t realize how hard it is to be one. Athletes have to work harder in school on a regular basis to compensate for the long hours lost competing at a high athletic level during both games and practices.
The first and most pressing issue is the lack of having enough time to complete assignments. Not only do they attend school for seven hours like everyone else, but they invest another two to four hours everyday for practices and games. However, the student-athlete’s night is only starting, as then he or she has to tackle a seemingly endless amount of homework.
Furthermore, no free time generates stress, and combined with sleep deprivation, the average South athlete will find him or herself at a disadvantage on the field and in the classroom.
According to The National Sleep Foundation, the recommended hours of sleep for a teenager settles around nine and one-quarter hours. However, due to school work and sports, most student-athletes can sleep more than two hours less than this amount.
“Between playing soccer and doing my school work, there is not a lot of time for sleep in schedule, junior Aaron Trachtman said. “I often find myself very tired in the morning and unable to focus as well.
Sleep deprivation has a massive effect on anyone, whether it be an athlete, a student, or an average adult. “It can be the beginning of a lot of issues, Wellness teacher Todd Elwell said. “Initially it might just be your focus and concentration, but at some point your body breaks down even more and you are more susceptible to getting sick.
“It’s one of those things that’s not good for your intellectual wellness and it’s certainly not good for your physical wellness. From a sports perspective, you make so many mental errors when can’t focus or you’re really tired.
In addition, student-athletes frequently have to organize their schedules to accommodate both school and sports. Usually time on the weekend has to be appropriately allocated for both practices, homework, and friends. Most of the time this is a hard feat to accomplish.
It takes a while to adjust to the amount of work one has to do, and usually the student-athlete’s grades are the first to suffer. Student-athletes need time to adjust to their workload and perfect their balancing act if they are to succeed in school. Many teachers are unaware of this recaltion an athlete must undergo and do not offer sufficient opportunities to allow this process to run to completion.
“A lot of times during the season, especially during away games, we get back late and there isn’t a lot of time to do homework. Being tired and sore doesn’t help, senior Nate Kropp said.
The Varsity Football team, for example, played an away game for which they left at 4:30 pm and returned at 10:15 pm. This offered insufficient time for the players to complete their work on time.
“I think for someone who’s doing a lot of stuff it might have a ridiculous effect on their schoolwork, but considering I’ve been doing track since freshman year and I did football last year as well, I understand how time consuming it can be, so you have to plan accordingly, said Jeffrey Alkins said.
The high-pressure environment of South is not an ideal environment to struggle and fall behind. At times, athletes here must choose between their academics and their sports.
However, despite all the effort put in by student-athletes to represent their school on the field, there is no compensation for their work.
They still have do the same amount of homework as normal students do; they still have to have the same amount of credits to graduate, and must take classes such as wellness, arts, and foreign languages just like everyone else.
In addition, there are no regulations providing for extensions for homework, projects or tests, even though they have less time to prepare.
There are opportunities, based on the teacher, where students will be able to receive extra time.
“Most teachers, given advanced notice, have no problem postponing due dates, History Department Head Bob Parlin said.
Despite belief among some students, the faculty does support the work and time commitment required to be a successful student-athlete.
“I am sympathetic to today’s child because today’s children are over-scheduled, Athletic Director Scott Perrin said. “The lifestyles that these kids lead are very dangerous. the amount of stress that they put themselves under, what they put into their bodies, and the amount of sleep they get really effects them.
On the other hand, many teachers will hold student-athletes accountable for managing their time efficiently.
“The ones who can manage to get their stuff done can manage to get their stuff done, Perrin said. “It strikes a very difficult balance and it takes a special kid to do it. It’s extremely difficult.
Although sports is considered a privilege, and not mandatory, what would a high school be without them?
“Newton South athletes are dedicated to both their sports and their academics. The burden on them is huge and sometimes there is simply not enough time, senior David Melly said.
Some parts of the school do not realize the commitment it takes to be a student athlete. The amount of work and time spent to do both school work and play a sport is overwhelming and constant.
Many teachers at South, however, can relate to their students’ struggles. Many faculty members are coaches, and even more were once high school athletes.
The amount of physical activity and exhaustion makes it very hard to do and finish homework and stay mentally and physically in tune for an entire athletic event. Struggling students looks bad for the school in an academic sense, and poor athletics is not a good representation of Newton South either.
Perrin believes that athletics as a whole are misunderstood and even under-appreciated for their life lessons.
“The academics need to see the value of athletics, he said. “[Academics] are the ones that need to bend, not [the Athletic Department].
When asked if any discussion has existed about modifying academics or athletics, Perrin stated that there have been no talks because South’s environment is naturally stressfull.
Student-athletes need a large amount of determination, motivation and work ethic to achieve in school and sports.
As academics and athletics equally grow increasingly more competitive, will a student-athlete’s balancing act be too much without some reform to the system?

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