How Important is Structure?
Conventional wisdom in high school and college athletics is that athletes perform better in the classroom during their season. But is it true?
The argument goes something like this: The season offers more structure in the academic lives of student-athletes which leads to better academic performance. It makes sense.
Grades Go Up When Practice Time Goes Down
However, in a series of studies of over 10,000 college athletes across Divisions I, II, and III, the results revealed something altogether different. What these separate studies all showed was that students do better in the classroom outside of their season of competition. And the sports with high in-season demands–football, baseball, softball–had the highest correlation with an in-season negative performance.
These separate studies also concluded that those students who were less well prepared academically upon entering college suffered disproportionately from low academic performance.
Overall Athletes Do Better
These studies can be instructive on some level and if it can help an athlete or parent to make a positive adjustment then this is a good thing. But what has also become increasingly clear is that both high school and college athletes, on average, do better in the classroom.
There can be a variety of reasons of this, including, as mentioned, time that is very structured. This gives student-athletes a special ability to focus, even if it is only because they have to in order to survive. Many athletes also learn superior study habits and time-management out of necessity as well.
A Positive Attitude
There are some trends that both parents and college-bound athletes should be made aware of. The first, and perhaps most important, is that incoming college freshman athletes almost always enter college with an idealistic outlook with optimistic goals about their future academic careers.
A Change Over Time
What happens, though, is that college athletes become progressively more detached as the realities of balancing classroom, athletic and social realities come into focus. The result is that many college athletes feel compelled to abandon their previous lofty goals and simply accept inferior academic performance.
Don’t Let This Happen to You
Now is a good time for parents and prospective college athletes to realize that being a student-athlete has special and unique challenges. Athletes need to pay particular attention to always making academics a priority. The alternative for scholarship athletes is having nothing to show for all the hard work that went into getting into a college in the first place.
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