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Extracurricular Activities: The Sports & School Balance


For educators, having students involved in extracurricular activities like sports can feel like a catch-22. On one hand, extracurricular activities like sports carry significant benefits for students. On the other hand, extracurricular activities like sports demand a lot of a student's time, making it difficult for him or her to manage schoolwork. Finding a balance between sports and academics is essential for the modern student, and teachers can provide some help in this regard:

1. Outline Extracurricular Activities’ Priorities

Parents and teachers alike need to determine what their priorities are. While sports are important, as they provide many social experiences and important exercise, few, if any, of your students are going to make a career out of sports.

Dr. Shilagh Mirgain, sport psychologist with UW Health Sports Medicine, reminds parents and educators that school always has to come first. That does not mean that sports are not beneficial or important, but they should not take precedence over academics. Instructors and parents need to work together to ensure students have time for their academics — even when participating in sports.

2. Remember the Benefits of Sports

It's easy for educators to feel that sports have little value, but when handled well, sports can greatly benefit students. In fact, statistics show that students who play sports perform better in academics than those who do not. For teachers who want to see improved learning outcomes, encouraging students to play a sport is a good idea. Also, participation in sports for many students can greatly improve self-confidence and their overall enjoyment of life.

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3. Communicate with All Parties Involved

For students who are passionate about sports, teachers must learn to communicate. Parents, coaches, other teachers and the students themselves need to discuss what can be done to accommodate sports without sacrificing the quality of academics. Parents can foster communication with their child by working to maintain a family meal schedule, at least a few nights a week. Coaches and educators can meet to discuss their needs and scheduling. Often, proper communication can help to ensure that the students can successfully balance athletics and academics without feeling overwhelmed.

4. Actively Teach Time Management Skills

When students are in sports, they have daily practices, regular travels for games and tournaments, and many demands on their time — and of course for many kids, homework is the least appealing of those responsibilities. Without good time management skills, many students assume they do not have enough hours for their homework.

Here are some time management tips teachers can pass to their students:

  • Set aside "known time," such as time in school, at games, at practice and traveling, to see what is left.
  • Use travel time to study.
  • Plan a weekly schedule at the start of the week.
  • Use the weekends to work ahead.
  • Avoid procrastination, which will ruin a carefully balanced schedule.
  • Use study halls and extra class time to work ahead.

As students outline their schedules, they often find they have more availability than they originally thought that they can dedicate to their schoolwork.

5. Encourage Students to Use Available Resources

Tutoring services and extra credit assignments allow your students to get the help they need to remain academically successful. Encourage students to take advantage of these resources when needed, as they learn to balance their time spent in sports and in the classroom.

6. Watch for Warning Signs of a Problem

For some students, balancing sports and academics is too difficult. Teachers need to know what warning signs to watch for that indicate a potential problem. These may include:

  • Sudden drop in grades.
  • Lack of motivation in the sport.
  • Poor attitude in the sport or in school.
  • Making excuses to skip practice or games.
  • No desire to play sports.
  • Physical illness when it's time to participate in the sport.

At their core, sports are fun. When students stop having fun, it's time to re-evaluate whether they should consider a new sport or stop altogether.

What can a teacher do if they notice these warning signs? Teachers can encourage parents to take a closer look and point out the problems they see. Ultimately though, it's up to the parent and the student, not the teacher, to determine if a sport will continue.

Finding balance between sports and academics requires a team approach. With the right help and communication from all parties involved, students can benefit from playing a sport, while still enjoying a quality academic experience.

Author Bio

David Serwitz is the Founder & CEO of Grade Potential Dallas/Ft Worth In-home Tutoring Services, the National Leader for In-Home Tutoring for grades K-12th and college. Founded in 2002, Grade Potential has worked with thousands of families across the country to help them achieve their academic goals.

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