How to balance sports and academics

Striking the right balance between academics and extra-curricular activities can be a thorn in the flesh. On one hand, you’ve got your parents and teachers expecting you to excel in academics; and on the other hand, you’ve got your coaches encouraging you to rise above the ordinary.


Striking the right balance between academics and extra-curricular activities can be a thorn in the flesh. On one hand, you’ve got your parents and teachers expecting you to excel in academics; and on the other hand, you’ve got your coaches encouraging you to rise above the ordinary.

If you are one of those students who love both academics and extra-curricular activities, you are probably wondering how to balance the two. Your ultimate questions invariably are: how much is too much? What should I enlist for? How can I balance academics and extra-curricular activities?

Extracurricular activities are activities that students participate in which do not fall into the realm of normal curriculum of schools. There are many forms of extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs, governance, student newspaper, music, art, and drama. Given that they are voluntary, one may wonder if they are really essential.

While the significance of extracurricular activities cannot be overemphasized; academics come first. Your first responsibility is getting those high grades and learning all you can from your classes — the primary reason for going to school is to take classes and do well in them! It is not enough to just do well on the tests; you must learn the material in order to be able to apply. This having been said, the next important venture is to excel in extracurricular activities.

Why participate in an extracurricular activity?

While extra-curricular activities are not really mandatory, they certainly play an important role in your education, complementing what you learn in class. One great way to keep yourself motivated to balance both is to reward yourself when you do a great job in an exam as well as when you excel in an extracurricular activity. This will help you keep from getting stressed out and stay on track.

Similarly, extracurricular activities shape behaviour. Students who participate in extracurricular activities have reduced behaviour problems. In sports, they show discipline in drills, practices, and routines. They have a responsibility to perform those tasks correctly, whether it is basketball or football, dance routines, or debates. When students perform these things correctly, they are rewarded for their good behaviour and they take pride in their accomplishments. Because of the pride they achieve, they gain self-respect, self-esteem, and self-confidence.

The most dangerous time for bad behaviour is the time after school and before parents get home, which is usually the time between three o’clock and seven o’clock. This is the time when they are at the most risk at committing violent acts and victimization. This is a crucial time for students to be in extracurricular activities because they are under supervision and guidance. They are then better able to resist unsafe behaviours such as drug and alcohol use, gang involvement, and criminal activities.

Higher grades and positive attitude toward school is another benefit that extracurricular activities give to students. Self-esteem can be a predictor of academic performance. Students that don’t like school won’t do as well as the students that do like school because they are not motivated to succeed.

Besides, participation in extracurricular activities provides students with an opportunity to create a positive and voluntary connection to their school.

Students who participate in extracurricular activities are less likely to drop out and more likely to have higher academic achievement. Those students that are at risk of failure appear to benefit even more from participation in extracurricular activities than those who are normal achievers. This is especially important for students who belong to ethnic minorities and those with disabilities.

By participating in extracurricular activities students learn lessons in leadership, teamwork, organisation, analytical thinking, problem solving, time management, learning to juggle many tasks at once and it allows them to discover their talents.

Certain extracurricular activities also look good on college applications. Colleges look to see if students participate in certain things before they are accepted. Participation in some of these activities could also help a student get a scholarship for college.

The final effect that extracurricular activities have on students is the social aspect. Students that are involved in extracurricular activities meet many new people. Each club or sport is different, so students meet different people in all different groups. Most times the people that students meet are students that they would never talk to or become friends with on a normal basis. In different extracurricular activities students learn about group work, and sometimes they end up having less conformity to gender stereotypes.

How to strike a balance

As with everything else in life, you must first make a list of your priorities. If your interest in sports is as strong as your interest in academics, then it could mean that you would have to give up watching TV and other things so that you have ample time to complete your home assignments. Depending on your subject combination, you might even have to choose between working on your studies during the weekends, Christmas time and the spring break.

So get a grip on your time table or course schedule and base your involvement in extracurricular activities accordingly. Ask yourself the following as you plan: How many hours will you need to study? Can you catch up with studies in between classes? Will you have enough free time to participate in other activities?

Which activities really matter to you?

Prioritize your interests and steer your life in the right direction, so that you not only get a well-rounded education but also develop your professional skills and meet new people.

The good news is that you can develop many valuable skills and gain lots of experience by taking part in enjoyable extra-curricular activities — and it’s never too early to start! It’s a great way to enhance your applications while having fun. What’s more, involvement in extra-curricular can give a sense of your personality to an otherwise dry CV.

The writer is a lecturer at The Adventist University of Central Africa


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