Teen Athletes: Striking a Balance

If you have a teen athlete at home, watching the Olympics provide an inspiring opportunity. It is exciting and heartwarming to watch athletes from all over the world compete, and learn their stories of  hard work, dedication, and commitment.

It’s not easy being an athlete — even if you’re in high school.

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The Sports/School Balance

The most difficult task is often striking the balance between sports and school. There are so many more opportunities for teens these days to engage in athletic play and/or improve their skills in the sport. Tournaments and competitions quickly fill up the schedules of teen athletes.

Academics have also become more competitive in America. With so many more high school graduates choosing to go on to college, the entrance requirements and expectations have become more rigorous.

This means today’s teen athletes are forced to juggle their time between sports and school. With so many balls up in the air the chance of one falling almost seems inevitable. The good news is that with a little organization and planning, teen athletes can optimize their ability to keep both sport and school succinctly in check.

Here are some quick tips to help:

What Teen Athletes Can Do

1)   When in doubt, schedule it out. In order to avoid feeling overwhelmed by time constraints, teen athletes should create a schedule that includes time for homework, studying, practice, meals, and even down time.

2)   Take the time to plan. In order to ensure an optimal schedule, teen athletes should be mindful of upcoming academic and athletic commitments. While for many teens it is a natural inclination to take things day by day, athletes are better served planning their day a week in advance when possible.

3)   If you don’t know what’s due when, ask. If there is a big test or project due in the near future, approach the teacher and ask for more information. Teachers are usually encouraged when students demonstrate initiative and commitment.

4)   Address concerns and or conflicts as soon as possible. A big test on the day the team is leaving school early for a big game can create quite a quandary. Students who problem solve with their teachers in advance reflect strong character. Ask the teacher if the test can be taken at an alternative time. Avoid ignoring the conflict and addressing later. Teachers are less inclined to accommodate when they get the message that course work plays second fiddle to a student’s sport.

5)   Ask, don’t assume. Many athletes report they are afraid to approach their coaches if they feel they would be better served studying or working on a project than attending a practice. Most teachers and coaches understand the pressures faced by today’s student athletes. There is never any harm in asking. If it is a one-time situation chances are strong that the coach will demonstrate compassion.

What Parents Can Do

1)   Avoid adding pressure. Asking your teen how he is going to study for a test and       attend practice offers little benefit. Working with your teen to figure out a schedule is helpful and supportive.

2)   Encourage healthy habits. When time is tight, teens tend to find unhealthy ways to cut corners. In order to help keep stress at a minimum teen athletes need to eat right and get enough sleep. Ensure that your teen has healthy meals to take on the run. Intervene when it seems she is trying to burn the candle at both ends.

3)   Validate their valiant efforts. A little understanding and support can go a long way. When parents express their respect and even pride in their teen athlete’s ability to deal with the challenges, they encourage peak performance in all realms.

4)    If the scales seem to be tipping, help your teen athlete regain the balance. Sometimes this may entail a little ‘tough love.’ Tell him he can’t go out with his friends after practice because he has to study; insist that she talk to the coach about missing a practice so she can complete that major project.

Teen athletes face many complicated challenges. When they strike the right balance between sport and school, the inner satisfaction beats even the impact of the loudest crowd’s roar.


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