Sports and good grades

The time while your children are little—preschoolers or in early primary grades—is a good time to think about the competing place of academics and sports in their lives, and what you are willing to sacrifice in one area in order to bolster the other.



In the US, sports are an important part of child development.  Participation in sports leads to healthier bodies, better thinking brains, better sleep, friendships, teamwork, popularity, and discipline.  Colleges want to see that students have been active in sports.

The problem isn’t sports per se, but the balance between sports and schoolwork.  Some students can handle a rigorous sports practice schedule and keep high grades; others can’t.  When students can’t, what is the priority—team sports, academics, or some compromise?

I teach a sixth grade student who plays fall football.  He has three-hour practices three evenings a week, after which he showers, eats and then starts homework after 9 p.m.  He also has a game on Saturdays—another four hours devoted to football.  Football season starts in August and lasts until Thanksgiving—three and a half months of the school year.  At mid-semester this fall, this student’s grades in reading and writing are in the low 70’s.

The mother knows football is partly to blame for her son’s mediocre grades, but she is reluctant to pull him from a sport he loves.  She is also reluctant to limit her son to less practice time on school nights. If the coach says three hours, then three hours it is.

I have another sixth grader who plays year-round tennis.  He practices several times a week with and without a coach.  When he has a tennis match which conflicts with a reading/writing lesson, tennis wins.  He is carrying a grade of 65 in ELA.  The mother says he needs something which makes him feel good, and tennis is it.

In the past, I had another student who did gymnastics for three hours, four evenings a week.  During the winter this student traveled to meets, sometimes taking  whole weekends.  Yet this student maintained a B average and won an academic scholarship to college.

If your child is still at the CVC stage of reading, then consideration of the place of sports in her or his life might seem premature.  It’s not.  You should decide ahead of time what grades you expect from your child and what you are willing to do to achieve those grades.  Are you willing to commit to a sport which takes up many school evenings when your child could be doing homework?  Are you willing to allow your child to participate many hours a week in a sport even though his grades are low?  Where do you draw the line, if ever?

I recommend that when your little boy or girl signs up for T-ball or dance, that you appraise carefully the time commitment it entails.  How will such a time commitment affect schoolwork?  Talk to your child about your expectations and how your child can or cannot meet those expectations while still doing that sport.  Then act accordingly.

Organized sports are optional.  Doing well in school is not.

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