Smarts vs. Sports: Balancing School and Athletics

Smarts vs. Sports: Balancing School and Athletics

Help your student athlete win in sports and smarts with these six simple tips.


By: Katrina Simeck

It’s essential for student athletes to learn how to multitask. A basketball player worries about algebra equations while practicing his free throws. A soccer star ponders the plot of the latest reading assignment while guarding mid-field. A swimmer logs laps while counting the number of hours he’ll be studying when he gets home. Student athletes are faced with the challenge of balancing the demands of school and sports. And while you love watching your sports star take first place or score a career high, you, too, are wondering how you can help your child succeed in academics.

Understand Expectations
Many schools host “sports nights” before the start of each season. During this time, administrators explain the school’s academic and athletic policies, and individual coaches detail their expectations. It’s important that students and parents are clear on what the school’s policy is around absences, minimum grade point averages/eligibility and athlete behavior.

It’s also important to understand how those factors affect playing time and what other metrics the coaches may be using. Many coaches insist on a higher grade point average than the baseline school requirement — it’s vital to know the score upfront.

Teach Time Management
Student athletes need to pack more responsibilities into their already-crammed schedules. Early morning workouts and after-school practices can take away valuable study time. Sit down with your child and help define a daily schedule that accommodates sports schedules, schoolwork, socializing and sleep.

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Demonstrate Open Communication
When conflicts about sports and schoolwork arise, encourage your student to communicate directly with his coaches and teachers. Does he need more time on an assignment? Will he need to miss practice before an important test? Encourage students to be clear with teachers and coaches about what he or she needs need to be successful. If agreements can’t be reached, don’t hesitate to advocate for your athlete.

Fuel Them Well
Early morning practices may mean grabbing an energizing snack on the way out the door, so stock easy-to-eat, portable and high-protein snacks to fend off hunger and keep performance on the field — and in the classroom — at its highest. Talk openly about the temptation to get quick energy from caffeinated high-sugar energy drinks and the negative effects that they can have on performance. Keep in mind that sleep is also key, so help your student athlete minimize late-night homework and get to bed at a reasonable time.

Establish Good Homework Habits, Including in Study Halls
If your student’s schedule permits, encourage him to work in a study hall. Many schools have a reduced PE requirement for athletes, which may free up a class period. Student athletes can use this time to stay a step ahead of their homework, which will allow them time after school for sports and socializing. Study groups can be helpful, and some coaches may even be willing to schedule team study time before major exams or group assignments.

Watch for Signs of Burnout
Being well rounded does not mean being the best at everything. Your student doesn’t need to be the captain of the team, the valedictorian of his school and the leader of a club. Expecting excellence in all areas may be too much. Talking with your child can be tough, but it’s worth the effort to ensure that you’re checking in how they’re really doing. Skip the standard “How was school?” and get specific — ask about assignments and future tests or their confidence level about an upcoming game. If you hear that they’re feeling worn out, talk through possible solutions.

We all want our kids to succeed in school and sports, and striking the right balance is possible with teamwork and dedication — on the classroom, on the field and at home.



Katrina Simeck is a single working mom on a quest to find a balance (or at least a little bit of Zen) between work and play. By day, she's a project manager for a cosmetics company; by night, she channels her creative energy into writing, crafting and photography. She is a staff writer at Parenting Squad.

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