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Do High School Athletics Affect Academics?

Just like myself, most students in high school play at least one sport, either for school or outside of school. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the stress of having to succeed at multiple things, and I’m sure every high school athlete has asked whether it’s worth it to play a sport or focus on their academics. My whole high school career I’ve played a sport for either 2 or 3 seasons and I’ve always found myself overwhelmed with work even when I felt as though I managed my time correctly. I figured that if I had this issue some of my other peers must be in the same situation so I decided to truly figure out what is the best thing to do to in order to ensure academic success. I first researched the topic to see if other people have either had this same thought, and/or conducted experiments to prove or disprove their point. I then decided to conduct my own survey and set of interviews in order to see what the majority of Friends Academy believes when it comes to sports and academics.

An article from LIVESTRONG.COM discusses researchers’ views on this topic, which is backed up by studies they have done in several high schools. They have discovered that a student who both plays a sport and is determined to do well in school will have a lot of stress. However, they have noticed that a majority of students who are under the pressure of sports and academics use that as a motivation to work harder and manage their time better. Leah Ferenc, a competitive field hockey player, says, “I am more successful at completing my assignments during the season, because I know that I only have a certain amount of time to do so.” They have also found that schools with more successful sports teams also have more academically successful students than those students who don’t play a sport. (

Another article titled “Does Athletic Success Come at the Expense of Academic Success?” written by Jay P. Greene follows a sociologist as he conducts research to truly figure out if sports help or hurt you academically. He looks at the correlation between test results and athletics in various Ohio schools. Very similar to me, Jay P. Greene grew up wondering whether sports impacted academics. He never participated in school sports because he believed “the culture of athletic prowess swamped the culture of academic success”. Greene conducted a research project that looked closely at the relationship between sports and academics. When looking at several different Ohio high schools he was first able to see that the high schools with the highest amount of success and participation in sports also had some of the highest test average scores. They were also able to see that all kids that played a sport on average scored higher on Ohio state standardized tests than those who didn’t. Finally, they saw that when a school added one more sport to the original sports they offered, it dramatically increased participation and also immediately increased the overall test averages for the school. Here, Jay P. Greene concluded that this idea of not being able to both play sports and succeed academically that he told himself to be true all throughout his high school career proved to be false. After reading this article, I believed the results of the study and all of the facts that he presented, but wasn’t so sold on the fact that sports in fact benefit you academically. Could it really be true that sports could have a positive affect on academic performance? (

I wanted to see if the kids in my high school felt the same way about academics and sports as I did. I decided I would get the best results if I sent out an anonymous survey to the whole high school, so every student felt as if they were able to answer all of the questions truthfully. After sending out the survey, comprised of 6 short multiple-choice questions, I quickly got a response from a total of 132 people. I asked very simple questions like how many sports do you play, what time do you get home at night, and do you think your grades would be better if you didn’t play sports. I first asked how many seasons do you play a sport for school, and out of the 132 people I learned that 81% of high school students at Friends Academy participate in at least one sport for school, 6% say it depends on the year, and 13% don’t play any sports for school. The next question was to see how many sports each student plays out of school. I gave them the option of picking anywhere from 0 sports all the way to 5 or more. The most popular answer was 1 and the second most popular was 0, the other options were only chosen by a small handful of people. I then wanted to see the correlation between the students that play sports outside of school and inside of school so I looked further into the data to see each of the students’ choices individually. I noticed that the three main types of students are of the following. A student who plays many sports in school as well as outside, a student who plays no sports inside of school or outside of school, and finally a student who plays multiple sports for school and no sports outside of school. After establishing the three main types of students at Friends Academy I figured that I would most likely get mixed answers when I asked if they actually thought sports benefited or hurt them academically. Surprisingly, over forty percent of people believed that their grades would be better if they didn’t play any sports because it would give them more time to study. However, when I asked the final question of whether or not they believed that sports academically benefited or hurt them, all of the answers were very close. 36% of people were unsure whether or not sports truly affected them academically but they thought that it did indeed benefit them. Next, 28% of people said that they were sure that sports benefited them academically, and finally 36% of people either believed that it hurt them, or were unsure but thought that sports hurt them.

After doing a lot of research and conducting my survey I was somewhat surprised. I was lead to the conclusion that being both an athletic and striving to do well in school is a actually beneficial. However my survey left me with a mixed array of opinions. I learned that a majority of students at Friends Academy play multiple sports and don’t get home until around 6 or 7; they said that a lot of time they are thinking about schoolwork. I got a lot of mixed results, however, when I asked if they believed that dropping their sports would benefit them. It seemed as though some people were unsure whether or not it truly affected them or not.

After conducting research and my survey I decided that I should lastly set up two interviews where I talked with 2 students. The first is a lower classman and the second is any upperclassman. Even though through my research and survey I found that athletics and academics don’t have a direct correlation, I wanted to see if these two students believed that athletics do in fact affect academics, or if maybe they believed that their academic performance was affected by something else. I decided to ask both of the students similar questions to the survey. I think it was important to note that even though these two students are in different grades they take both average classes for their grade and also higher classes; the only difference is student #1 is a three sport athletic and student #2 only plays one sport. The reason that I decided to pick two students from two different grades was because I thought that his/her answers could potentially be very different based on the fact that people believe that an 11th grade student is faced with a heavier workload and a lot more academic pressure than a student in 9th.

When I sat down with student one, who is a freshman, I learned that she is a 3 sport athlete who usually gets home from practices at 6 and anywhere from 7-8:30 when she has matches/games. This person also told me that she is almost always thinking about the amount of homework that needs to be done or upcoming test and quizzes. This student says that school is something that is important to her and she tries very hard to do well in it. Even though she loves playing multiple sports, she does strongly believe that if she didn’t play any sport it would give her more time to study and do homework, thus improving her grades. On the other hand student number 2 is in 11th grade and only plays one sport. When I asked what time she usually gets home during her sport season and also during the two seasons she isn’t playing a sport, this student told me that she gets home around 6:15 during the sports season and around 4:45 when she’s not playing a sport. This student told me that she only thinks about academics when she has a lot to get done but other then that she enjoys playing a sport because it helps clear her mind. This student also told me that having less time to do homework helps with time management because you know you don’t have time to waste. In the end I learned that this student doesn’t think that playing a sport affects her grades, meaning she also doesn’t think it hurts her grades.

I started this research because I strongly believed that if I didn’t play any sports I would have a lot more time to do work and study thus improving my grades. However, based on my research, surveys, and interviews I came to the conclusion that that isn’t necessarily the case. The research I found shows that sports are known to increase academic grades, but my survey and interviews showed mixed results. Not only did I find students who believe that sports benefit them academically and students who believe that sports hinder them, I also found that most people aren’t completely sure whether or not sports actually help or hurt their academic performance. So in conclusion I have learned that there is no one solution to this answer: each person is different, meaning that playing multiple sports might in fact help a certain kid academically, but might also hurt another.


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