Student Athletes vs. Academics

High school girls soccer gameMost parents think about their children playing sports and how it will affect them during school. I know my mom did while I was growing up. She was afraid that sports would get in the way of my learning. With practice after school, she wasn’t sure if it would eliminate time for homework or if it would cause me to sleep less which, in turn, would make me less attentive in class. She didn’t really worry about it as much until I got to high school where she wanted to make sure I received good grades so I could go to college. I know a lot of parents have the same thoughts. They want their children to be able to go to college and get a great degree to be successful in life. What parent wouldn’t? Writing stories about high school sports got me thinking about this subject. What I found may surprise some of you.

From the age you can start playing sports, almost every kid thinks about playing professional sports. They want to be just like Peyton Manning, Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Lisa Leslie and many, many more pros. They see these athletes as heroes. For some kids, that never changes – even as they get older. Unfortunately, statistically, that is very unlikely. Less than 1% of college student athletes become a professional athlete. Their greatest chance is in baseball with a 9.7% average. And even that average drops drastically to a .05% if one wants to play right out of high school. This is why academics are now being stressed so much more for student athletes.

Benefits of Playing Sports

high school football team huddleEven though athletics may not become your career, they are great for building character when going through school and further in life. They help with learning in several ways. They can help students to develop routines, to not be afraid to learn by trial and error, and to improve hand-eye coordination. They teach students to work well in study groups, and can help them find an academic “coach”. They teach kids sportsmanship which can lead to working well in teams in the work field. They also teach students respect, which is a great quality to have as you go through life. Student athletes also have a higher graduation rate than non-athletes, a better attendance record, and an average of a 2.8 grade point average versus a 1.9 for students that don’t play sports. Another positive quality is that they have fewer discipline problems.

Now is the time of year when high school seniors are filling out college applications, deciding what they want to do in the future, and just looking forward to the day they graduate. For the student athletes, they may have recruiters coming to their games which may be putting some additional pressure on them. Some schools may be giving them a deadline on when they need to give their letter of intent. That can lead to quick decisions that are not going to be beneficial. Before you and/or your student athlete make any of these decisions, here are some things to consider.

The number one thing you need to look at when it comes to “shopping” for a school is academics. When I was in high school, I didn’t pay much attention to that aspect but my parents did! They weren’t the only ones. More and more colleges are focusing on academics. The high schools in Geauga County require a 1.5 grade point average to be eligible to play sports, whereas the NCAA requires student athletes to have a minimum of a 2.0 GPA, and in 2015 they will need at least a 2.3 GPA. Your GPA also affects what score you need on your SAT’s and ACT’s to be eligible for certain colleges. The best thing to do is to ask these questions when you talk to the colleges, or you can go to NCAA Eligibilty Center to find information.

Consider also the time spent on athletics compared to class time. Football players in Division I schools state that they spend, on average, 80 hours a week between class and football during the season. Baseball players miss an average of two classes per week during their season. All of this can affect your student athlete on and off the field. It’s best to speak with the college athletic staff and other student athletes in the sport you are participating in. Guidance counselors in both high school and college levels can also give you some of that information.


student doing homeworkThough parents may encourage their children to play sports for athletic scholarships, be aware of the statistics for actually receiving them. I recall the stress that caused, not only from my parents, but also from coaches and guidance counselors. I realize they just wanted to make sure I had every opportunity to have part, if not all, of my schooling paid for. Although you always want to strive for that full scholarship, only 1-2% of students get a full four year athletic scholarship for a Division I school. That is why it is important to look for other scholarships as well. There are several websites that give you the requirements for scholarships across the country. Scholarship applications can be due as early as October, so you don’t want to put this step off.

There is a scholarship that is available to high school student athletes from Berkshire, Cardinal, and Newbury. The Yoder Brothers Memorial Fund was developed after the passing of Joshua and Tyler Yoder. Both boys were in athletics and did well in school. This foundation was created to help others in the community after it helped this family. They offer seven 4-year renewable scholarship grants and one grant for technical/trade school. Which grant you are eligible for depends on which school you are currently enrolled in. You can either talk to your school counselor or check out their website  for more information.

I really enjoyed playing sports while growing up, whether it was football in the front yard with the neighborhood kids or playing soccer games in the snow. Sports instilled in me a lot of qualities I know my mother appreciates! I know she pushed me in sports because she knew what they could do for me in my future. Being a student athlete can be one of the most rewarding things you do while growing up. Take every opportunity you can to take advantage of it. They may or may not help you get into college or a good career, but they most certainly will contribute to the building of character needed for future successes in life.


Trent Ford
Author: Trent Ford

Trent is a graduate of Madison High School and a new resident of Geauga County. He enjoys spending time with his family, history, and the outdoors, but his passion is sports, both local and professional.