Monday, June 1, 2015 by Nia Mascitelli
Many high school students’ participate in a school sport at some point during the school year, and many adults wonder if by playing a sport, students’ grades tend to worsen. However, Saratoga Springs High School students provide insight as to how they maintain their grades during the sports season and what motivates them to put schoolwork before their sport.
“I push myself to do better in school during the season because I know that I’ll be benched if my grades start to drop,” said Saratoga Springs High School Varsity Field Hockey athlete Sara Marshall. Many of the students responded this way because the coaches of the school sports teams understand that the students’ schoolwork always comes first. The threat of not being able to play at games or practices keeps students motivated to maintain their grades.
According to True Sport (truesport.org), there are many benefits of playing a school sport during the school year. One benefit is that high school students that play a school sport are less likely to drop out because of the commitment to the sport, and participation in a sport has also been associated with consistently higher grades in school. “Research has shown that physical movement can affect the brain’s physiology by increasing cerebral capillary growth, blood flow, oxygenation, growth of nerve cells in the hippocampus, development of nerve connections, and brain tissue volume,” explained in True Sport. All of these changes to the brain that can be made from physical movement are associated with improved attention, involving relief from boredom in the classroom, which results in higher attention levels during class time. Research Institute 52 has shown that exercise causes short-term relaxation, which is accompanied by improved concentration, enhanced creativity and memory, improved mood, and enhanced problem-solving abilities which can help both inside and outside of the classroom.
To maintain grades during a sports season, students learn different ways to efficiently manage their time, which can be interpreted as another benefit of playing sports during the school year. Many student athletes often feel immense stress as they receive pressure to perform on the field and also in the classroom.
Valentine Starnes, Saratoga Springs High School Varsity Soccer and Track athlete, said, “it helps to be organized with agendas and writing things down that you need to get done, and then prioritizing all of your activities.”
Abigail Dunay, aSaratoga Springs Varsity Tennis athlete, explained how she uses her time throughout the day to get things done: “I use my study hall time wisely,” she said. Stress that students face can vary depending on how much time they have after practice to get work done.
Saratoga Springs Varsity Track athlete Liam Madigan explained, “During the winter season, I’d be pushing homework that I knew I could do during the morning, to the next day if I needed to study for a big test.” Although high school students often feel pressure to achieve good grades during the season, the benefits of pursuing their sport, such as a time management skill building, can counterbalance the challenges they may present to the students.
There are various factors that may affect students’ grades during the sports season as far as socioeconomic differences. A 2012 Brown Center report on American school performance stated, “Financially advantaged schools are better able to integrate excellence at sports into a broader culture that also encourages achievement.” The report also gave evidence that schools with higher ranked sports programs have better state achievement exam scores than those with less successful sports programs.
Different factors that have been scientifically tested that can show if sports affect a students’ grades during the season. Between time management, stress, and socioeconomic differences between students and schools, students at Saratoga Springs High School seemed to agree that they are able to maintain their grades throughout the sports seasons because of the pressure from the coaches to do well in school and because they are able to manage their time wisely.