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Academics first, athletics second

The clash between school work and sports in everyday life

Sam Swainson, Staff Reporter
Originally published June 8, 2018


The grind never stops.

A phrase usually said in mocking tones, this is a point of contention amongst athletes, coaches and teachers. The rush between matches, transitioning seasons, all while staying on top of homework and exams.

Entering high school as a freshman opened my eyes to the earnestness people competed with when it came to sports: intensive workouts and demanding coaches fueled a desire within each competitor. Unfortunately for some, that desire seems to only apply to athletics. The school’s actions only encourage this behavior.

Being introduced to the ‘year-round-athletic-lifestyle’ in sophomore year opened my eyes further. Late nights and early mornings spent bent over history packets and hours spent at school working my body till exhaustion. Nights longing for sleep, telling myself I can study longer.

Athletes around me struggled to keep a balance between athletics and academics. Complaints of having to skip practice to get the minimum required GPA of 2.5. How if it weren’t for game day slips they wouldn’t attend school. As the calendar year came to a close this winter, the issue became apparent to me: our school is plagued with a sports focused culture.

“There are definitely coaches that don’t realize how hard it is to be a student athlete,” freshman Harlow Knoerlein said. When Knoerlein told her head coach that she had to go home and study for a math test the day of a game, he wouldn’t let her. “He said that they give us a lot of time to do homework and that it’s our responsibility, that when we get on the field we need to shake everything off focus on the game,” Knoerlein said.

Every athlete knows the complete consumption of the game. They feel the desire to win; a desire only accomplished with a singular focus on the sport. Each athlete has an ambition fueled by their coaches, who push focus on their athletes.

This concentration has the side effect of late nights at games. Ferries to Bainbridge on Monday nights, long drives to Curtis; those teams without buses have the generosity of parents carpooling teams across the county and farther.

“We had one game that was all the way in Lake Sammamish,” Knoerlein said. “I didn’t get home till midnight, we had a game that was on Bainbridge and I didn’t get home till 10:30 p.m.”
The strict scheduling of academics and extracurriculars is hard on all students. Juggling a job, social life, school work, practice, games, all of it puts students under stress. To be blunt, some fall behind or just give up, whereas others thrive in this kind of environment.

“I want to play lacrosse in college,” sophomore Emma Bergeron said. “So having these years playing for a team gives me the motivation—if I have below a 2.0 with a grade check coming up—it gives me the motivation to get my grade up so I can play.”

Bergeron started the lacrosse season with a GPA of 1.9. She pushed herself to the limit when it came to scheduling. She dominated the field in practice and games, while taking command of her academic habits. The end of her season resulted in a dash for playoffs and GPA of 2.5.

The academic-athletic clash is known across the country by administration, students and families and a lot of people believe the battle unnecessary. The European solution is a popular platform for administration and parents.

Dewey Moody, a chemistry teacher, is adamant about this solution. “In Europe, all these sports activities are private clubs,” Dr. Moody said. “So I’m not spending my time dealing with any sports-related issues. ”

The European solution leaves no excuse for late work or absences, unless by sickness or family ordeals.

“We’re balancing this,” Dr. Moody said. “It keeps them in school, but it removes them from school.”

The balance of scales between athletics and academics is rickety, both sides filled with teenagers drowning from the pressure. So enamored with the sports season, we forget that we’re placed in school to learn.

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Academics first, athletics second