Balancing grades and athletics proves challenging but worthwhile

Juggling sports and school leads to challenges


As any teenager knows, getting through high school is tough. Between sports and maintaining good grades, it can be hard to have time for anything else. But sophomore Aleah Treiterer involves herself in multiple activities to improve her academic performance.

Being a high-level athlete in soccer and playing other sports (swim, basketball, track, volleyball, and taekwondo) required a lot of commitment, on top of academics and social events. But for Aleah, the extra activity actually helped her.

“For me personally, it really helps me because I have to have that relief,” Treiterer said.

Not only did sports give her a break from school, but they also taught her time management and work ethic, which translated over to her academics and helped her do better in school.

“It helps me be able to focus for school work, which I usually do through sports,” Treiterer said.

Fellow sophomore and athlete Troy Quinton had the same mindset when it came to balancing academics and athletics.

Another multi-sport athlete with a scholastic focus, Quinton agreed that when it came to school versus sports, school came out on top.

“School [is] definitely [more important to me],” Quinton said. “It helps me get into a good college. If I can play for a scholarship, then that’s a plus, but at this point, I’m more focused academically.”

With an end goal in mind, Quinton focused more on his school subjects than sports, and didn’t feel like his activities affected his grades.

“[Sports don’t] really affect me. I have time for academics and I usually try to get to bed at 10:30, so I wouldn’t say it affects me,” Quinton said.

Regardless of the number of sports played (or not played) by a student, physical activity is still important.

According to Howell Wechsler, director of the Division of Adolescent and School Health for the Centers for Disease Control, about 25 different studies had a positive correlation between physical activity and grade improvements.

Even periods of short activity “helped increase the duration and intensity of concentration following such activities, including those in which the student never left the classroom,” said one study.

Quinton agreed that his studies benefitted from playing sports, whether for the school or a local club.

“[Playing sports] definitely helps me,” Quinton said. “I feel more focused during class, and I know that exercise helps you get a better night’s sleep, which can affect my school day a lot for me.”

Teacher and football coach Mike Valentine had a unique point of view as he saw students both inside and outside of the classroom.

“We like to say that [all athletes] are student-athletes,” Valentine said. “Not athlete-students, since you’re a student first.”

He noticed that some students are so focused on the sports they play that they tend to slack off in school. His idea as a coach was to promote good grades and a healthy lifestyle.

“We have [the freshman football team attend a study hall] two times a week during the season, and the idea is that they have to focus on studies,” Valentine said. “We want to make it clear that your first job is to be a […] student.”

According to Valentine, most students needed something else in their life aside from school, whether it’s a sport, club, activity, or form of service.

“I think [athletics] is part of the bigger picture,” Valentine said. “I think you need to be doing something other than just sticking your head in a book. I think you need to be in band, or choir, or play a sport, or student government.”

A study conducted by James Pivarnik at the American College of Sports Medicine tested the correlation between physical fitness and academic performance.

The study showed a positive association between physical activity of a student and their academic performance, and proved that exercise and sports helped students in school.

In addition to increasing a student’s concentration, sports can “provide motivation for improved academic performance,” according to Tom Welter, executive director of the Oregon School Activities Association.

As far as scholarships go, Quinton, Treiterer, and Valentine all agreed that a student committed to a college for a sport would have more motivation to do better in school.

“[Getting a scholarship] certainly affects their grades positively,” Valentine said. “You kind of have to have a certain GPA to get into those colleges you want. They don’t want dummies.”

Treiterer recently committed to University of Illinois for soccer, and she said it helped her maintain good grades and taught her how to be a better student.

“For me, all of the motivation for me to get good grades is coming from myself and […] maintaining that scholarship. So it’s making me work harder in school to keep up in academics,” Treiterer said.

Grades weren’t the only thing that athletes needed to maintain a good record of in school: attitude and behavior, Valentine said, was equally important and affected a student’s overall outlook on school.

“We make sure [athletes] know that [they’re] a student here, and [they] have to do well […] which includes behaving correctly in class,” Valentine said. “We’ll make sure you’re in your place so you don’t get anything on your record and potentially lose a scholarship.”

But sometimes even the students who seemed to do fine admitted to getting help when they needed it.

“If it really comes down to it, there’s always tutoring and things like that to help,” Quinton said. “I do that a lot. It definitely helps.”

Treiterer agreed and mentioned that it can be difficult to balance school and sports–no matter how many sports played or classes enrolled in.

“If there’s a time where you have too much on your plate, it’s OK to back off,” Treiterer said. “If you need help with a tutor or stay after class, that’s definitely fine. You don’t have to do it all yourself.”