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Opinion: The weight of high school sports on student athletes
April 14, 2022
A big orange door is cracked open revealing smiling faces and laughter. Wayland High School locker rooms: packed changing rooms where you will find a variety of people from every grade, frantically getting ready together for their respective practices at 3:30 p.m. each day.
I am an active participant of the chaos that ensues at 3:30 p.m. each day as I get ready for my own sport. At the beginning of the winter season, I had to make a tough decision on whether or not I would play sports this year, as many people from our school range from it being the best part of their day, to just another thing eating away at their time.
As I see it, school sports are the perfect way to break out of your shell. In the winter and spring seasons, I have gained new confidence, as well as great teammates who have become great friends.
My time playing sports at Wayland High School has consisted of fun with my teammates and working to make myself better and stronger. Although I would never trade my time playing for anything else, being a student athlete can bring on a large load for a student to hold.
I know from personal experiences and my friends’ experiences that playing a school sport has both pros and cons for your life. In my opinion, the pros largely outweigh the cons, but at the same time it can be hard to look past some of the struggles that are part of it.
One of the only big issues I see for playing a sport as a student is time management. When playing a sport, it is a requirement for you to keep your grades above a C, but it is also a requirement to go to practice or games basically every day for the entire season. It can cause a lot of stress due to the amount of pressure being put on for someone to be “perfect” in every aspect.
At Wayland, there is a huge amount of academic and athletic competition to keep the best grades, best classes, stay on the best teams and still have a social life. In Wayland, it seems to be normalized that it should be no big deal to have everything and enjoy every part of your life. For some, this could be the sole reason they drop a sport.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to manage your time while on a team, but I know handfuls of people who have gone into tests unprepared, not finished necessary homework or even turned in big projects late due to not having enough time throughout their day to work.
Depending on how you look at it, the time issues could work against you, or improve your daily functioning. It can slowly allow you to learn how to limit your procrastination. It has helped me learn not to push studying off to the last minute as it can cause an incomplete assignment or a bad grade.
If it doesn’t help with time management, you can always rely on it helping your physical health. Hopefully it also helps with mental health, but that isn’t as guaranteed as physical improvements. Throughout a season, you will be required to be active for a given amount of time each day as well as improve your strength. For my spring sport, I am a softball catcher which has been helping me build both leg strength and arm strength. I still work out most days I have an off day, but I think almost all of my strength has been coming from simply the process of having practice every day after school.
As mentioned before, mental health improvements are also a possible plus to joining a school sport. For Wayland, our sports are not as rigorous as many other schools, which gives students the opportunity to try a new thing while also not being too frightened, particularly on junior varsity teams. Another good thing about sports taking up a lot of time is that you don’t have nearly as much time to belittle yourself as you might have previously. With so many new friends, staying active and playing a sport you love, it is almost guaranteed to improve negative self thoughts.
One of my favorite things a sport can give you is new friends and supportive teammates. In order to be your best self, it is necessary to have people around you who want to see you do better and want to be there for you. By joining a team, it is like automatically gaining a group of supporters who are there to cheer you on. There will always be people who don’t care about helping, but by joining a team, the likelihood of coming across people who are there for you is so much greater.
No one wants to be the one thing holding back their friends from becoming a great player, so this friendly competition is also one of the sure things to motivate you along the way. Depending on how you look at it, there can be good or bad outcomes to this. Personally, I feel that if I’m not playing my best or trying my hardest it’s more embarrassing and makes me upset with myself. The fact that each of my teammates is also my peer motivates me to keep going even if things are hard, as I don’t want to let them down then see their mood towards me in school change. It is an incredible feeling to feel yourself proving you deserve to be on the team and seeing your classmates gain respect for you.
In addition to help on the field, I now also know a handful of people who can lend me a hand for schoolwork. It never would have been possible to create such a friendly and caring environment with my schoolmates without playing sports. I’ve been able to slip from middle school to high school circumstances much easier knowing my teammates are right around the corner with a familiar face if I ever get lost or confused.
While the thought of joining a team can be daunting and nerve wracking, it is completely worth the risks in order to add a mix of positives to your high school experience. The first school tryout I ever went to I was shaking and terrified, now I think back on that moment full of gratitude that I ended up trying out anyway. In the end, it is a personal choice whether you want to pile some of the potential struggles of school sports to your life, but in my opinion it is completely worth each and every moment of hard work.