Photo provided by ihrsa.or under the Creative Commons Act
Photo provided by ihrsa.or under the Creative Commons Act

The Mental and Physical Health of Student Athletes: How to Maintain a Healthy Balance.

January 6, 2021

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As if dealing with the complexities of Covid weren’t enough, some feel that student athletes’ lives have gotten even more confusing than those of the average student. On top of grades and education, sports and performance pressure can play a huge role in how students are coping with this pandemic.

According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), nearly 8 million high school students participate in sports. With so many students in high school balancing both sports and academics, it is important to spread awareness of how important it is to safeguard a student athlete’s health.

Physical Health
Human bones are not fully developed until ages 17-24. Being an athlete puts your body under a lot of pressure, so injuries in student athletes can become common. Students can easily become busy with workouts and keeping their grades up, while letting their physical health suffer.

There are times athletes will ignore injuries or not let them heal correctly because they are anxious to get back with their team. An estimated two million high school student athletes suffer from an injury each year. Ignoring injuries or rushing the healing process can truly affect your body in the future, and should always be taken seriously.

For example, Faith Shields, a volleyball player at FCHS, was born with a birth defect in her hip. This injury was not caused by a sport, but has already played a huge role in her high school career. Shields admitted she tried to heal and play one year, but that doing so “slowed down the [healing] process by a couple months.”

Mental Health
Carrying the weight of your education and athletic performance can cause an immense amount of stress. FCHS football player Kobe Edmonds says that “as an athlete you’re never going to have a perfect game.” Still, athletes worldwide perform to succeed and when success does not happen, it can be hard on an individual mentally.

Going to school everyday can also become tiring on one’s brain. In fact, the Washington Post states that nearly 20% of students suffer from test anxiety. Student athletes come back from a two-hour practice after school and then have to eat, study, and get enough sleep. Being able to manage school along with doing well in sports can play a huge role on an individual’s mental health, so and awareness of this need for balance is important.

How to Gain Control
As a student athlete, being able to realize when one is overwhelmed is key. Taking a break or stepping back from something can be the right decision when talking about one’s mental and physical health. Students need to remember that school is a necessity and sports are an extra curricular.

“There’s always next year to do the sport if I really need to quit and just play recreationally,” explains Anja Bajs, a tennis player at FCHS.

Finding Balance
Although being a student athlete can be draining in many ways, there are many positive benefits. FCHS soccer player Maggie McWilliams, who is also a member of the Blue Ridge Governor’s School, said that one thing she loves about being a student athlete is when she is successful in both athletic endeavors as well as academics.

Being busy in high school teaches life skills such as time management, responsibility, and social skills. So what are some things students can do to stay focused as a student athlete while also maintaining their health? Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Prioritize – Remember, that school comes first and that if you don’t keep your grades up, you may not be able to play in the game.
  • Focus on time management – Get a planner and keep track of assignments and deadlines, as well as practice times. Set aside homework time.
  • Take breaks when your mind/body needs one – Be self-aware of what your body can take and keep a good balance.
  • Get enough sleep – Aim for 7-9 hours per night.
  • Ask coaches, parents, or even your doctor for help
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