School v. Athletics: the balance to greatness

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                  V.               

I have been working as a high performance tennis coach for the past six years and the biggest challenge when working with high level players is to create the same sense of urgency to be successful in the sport they are pursuing as they put into their education.

In the United States, education is required; every child is expected to start school in kindergarten or first grade and continue to go until they graduate from high school 12 years later. In addition to education, an emphasis is placed on other cultural enhancements, choir, playing an instrument, or debate team. On the other hand, sports and athletics are a leisure activity, participated in to round out the transcript or to teach a child “life lessons.” What parents need to understand is, if they want their child to succeed in their athletic career, the same level of commitment needs to be placed on practice, competition, and sports related homework, as is placed on education and cultural activities.

                                            

Parents will take great pride in their child’s attendance record and deans list awards at school, but think nothing of canceling a tennis lesson because their child has a play date, an important test, or the parent has something else on their schedule. This is problematic for a couple reasons. First, being that parents will cancel that tennis lesson but then put the same level of pressure on the child to succeed when in competition. Secondly, the child will not put the same level of effort into achieving success on the athletic field as they do in an academic setting.

                               

The second reason is the area that I find most troubling. Many times I will ask a kid to tell me their effort level on a scale of 1-10 or what percentage out of 100 they are trying. To often the answer is 5 out of 10 or under 100%. How is it possible for a child to expect success when they are only trying to succeed half of their max level?    

This mentality by parents creates distorted expectations and an unfair level of pressure on the children. A disconnect is created when the level of commitment is not the same for athletics as it is for school. Children are shown that it is not as important to maintain their level of focus and commitment in sport but they are then expected to excel nonetheless.

Most parents expect their children to receive A’s in school, and insure they are doing their homework and study for their tests. In the same breath, they expect their children to excel in sports but don’t make sure they stretch before working out, ice after, or allow them to work out at all. This mentality is one of the major factors limiting American.     

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Along the same lines, parents need to create a support system with their children to ensure success. A parent would never think of sending their child to school without the proper school books, but they would send them to practice without the correct racquet. A parent would make sure a child struggling academically would receive a tutor; a struggling athlete may be expected to perform without additional help.

While I understand academics are considered the most important thing as a child. I was home schooled and feel that athletics were just as much a part of my education as book learning. I believe they way to well rounded children is excellence in all areas of life.

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