Teacher support of student athletes is vital to success in both academics and sport


Nancy Yang

Sophomore Misha Donnelly, passes the ball to freshman Delilah Mitchell, during a game against Coon Rapids on October 15, 2018. “Having to do extra work when you miss [school] for games can be hard, because then you have to do the work that you miss and the work that you’re doing in class the next day, when you’re making up the work, you might also miss tests and stuff like that. It’s just hard.” Photo: Nancy Yang

Norah Austin, Staff Writer

High school can be a tricky time. Students often have to balance considerable a workload and stressful social and family life. On top of all that some students have made serious commitments to a sport; their responsibilities may include rigorous sports practices, games, and practice schedules.

Being in a high school sport, whether it be hockey, volleyball, gymnastics, or the like, can be extremely time consuming. Most sports practice everyday for two or three hours, eating up very much valued time for relaxation and homework.

Besides committing to practicing everyday, students have to commit to participating in games and sporting events, which can also take up considerable amounts of time.  “Having to do extra work when you miss [school] for games can be hard, because then you have to do the work that you miss and the work that you’re doing in class the next day, when you’re making up the work,” said Misha Donnelly, a sophomore and outside hitter on the B-squad volleyball team. “You might also miss tests and stuff like that. It’s just hard.”

Student-athletes sometimes have to leave school anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes early to get ready for and travel to away games for the lower levels of their sports team, whether they are on that team or just traveling with for support. “A lot of times it’s just maybe getting out 20 minutes early or something like that,” said Amy Cardarelle, South’s Athletic Director.

On average, the accumulated time student-athletes have to miss school adds up to several hours per sports season. “Depending on the sport, it varies quite a bit,” said Cardarelle. “But, I would say it may add up during the course of the season to 5 or 6 hours,” she continued.

“For volleyball, we have one to two away games a week, so I guess I’d say we miss about 7-10 seventh hours every season in 1st quarter and the first week or two of second quarter,” said Sydney Miller, a senior on the volleyball and ultimate frisbee teams.

Many wonder whether or not missing this much school for athletics could be a detriment to one’s education. Students have to be very committed to compensate for missing this much academic time. If students do not take initiative, they run the risk of falling behind in school.

“Usually we know way ahead of time when we are going to have an away game, and it’s rare that we won’t leave early for them. I use that to let my teachers know the day before that I’ll be leaving early, and that’s usually sufficient to be prepared,” said Miller.

In order for students to get back on track if they fall behind, it is vital that teachers are open and supportive throughout this process. “You have to work hard and treat [student athletes] like you would anyone else,” said Jeffrey Buszta, social studies teacher and Administrative Assistant coach for the football team, “You need to give them some suggestions, for example, on how to improve their grade. The good thing is, most of them want to do that.”

If students are constantly missing their 7th hour, they need to make sure to check in with teachers. However, it also goes the other way. Teachers have the obligation to check in with student athletes to make sure that they are not falling behind.

“I think it’s really important that teachers with student-athletes check in periodically. Missing class once a week means you’re with your teacher 80% of the time that students who go every day are, and I think some teachers assume that student athletes are prepared for the pressure that comes along with lots of homework and sports,” stated Miller.

The rigor of high school athletics is demanding, requiring hard-working and dedicated students to take on the task of being a student athlete.

“I think our student-athletes do a really good job of staying on task with their class work, if they have to miss any school for athletics. In the few years I’ve been doing this, I haven’t had teachers telling me that somebody’s falling really behind,” said Cardarelle. “But we also have standards, you know you have to maintain in order to be a student-athlete.”

According to the Minnesota State High School League, “In order to be eligible for regular season and league tournament competition a student must be in good standing…meaning that the student is eligible under of all the conditions and eligibility requirements of that school as well as the eligibility requirements of the Minnesota State High School League.” Besides this, students also have to maintain a certain grade point average to remain eligible.

Now the question remains: how can teachers support student-athletes? “I think the biggest thing I do to support [student-athletes] is to make sure they have the work that they’re missing and the content that they’re missing,” said Buszta. “I had a student before who came to me because they were concerned, and I told them I will work with you, and I will take care of you, but  you’ll have to earn your grade. But it’s also important to make sure you’re still in class and you learning the material you need.”

“I think, let [student athletes] leave, and if they’re struggling or behind in your class because of missing for games, just help them out, let them stay after school or something like that,” said Donnelly. “Definitely just let them go, just know that they don’t necessarily want to leave your class.”

Within South, it seems that teachers are very supportive of student athletes who have to miss school for away games. However, we aren’t acknowledging the sheer amount of mental capacity it takes to be athlete in high school.  “I think the pressure of a full load of homework plus sports has been a detriment to my mental/emotional health at times. It took me probably up until this year to really nail down habits that kept my homework on schedule and kept me able to catch up on everything I missed while also doing the homework of the day,” said Miller. “I was definitely under a lot of stress.”