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Athletics affecting academics

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Isaiah King running the 800m .

Isaiah King running the 800m .

Yusuf Aboutabl

Yusuf Aboutabl

Isaiah King running the 800m .

Yusuf Aboutabl, Staff Reporter

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Extracurricular activities are important if a student wants to be well-rounded and successful, but the time commitment that is required for said activities take away from the time needed to succeed in the classroom. There are hundreds of student athletes at Harrisonburg High School, and each and every one of them has an obligation to their academics, but athletics can sometime intervene with succeeding in the classroom. Fortunately, student athletes at HHS along with coaches are aware of this and work together to succeed in both areas.
Varsity basketball coach Don Burgess knows the importance of academics to student athletes and strives to support his players in the classroom.
“One of the ways we ensure they’re doing well in the classroom is that we have alternate practice schedules between the boys and the girls teams. In regards to Monday and Wednesdays, they go early, and Tuesday and Thursday, we go early. So whenever we have a late practice, our kids have a study hall. The students know to get their studying in before the late practice, so that’s one of the things that we do as opposed to girls practice early every day,” Burgess said. “That way the kids, boys and girls, have access to the library or the computer labs here at the high school at least twice a week. We incorporate study halls, but the coaches also stay on top of their kids and make sure they’re getting their work in.”
Having coached at the collegiate level, Burgess notes that there are differences in the way athletes in high school approach academics, but there are still similarities.
“At the high school level, it’s a little bit different because students are younger, so they’re still trying to find their way with time management skills, where at the collegiate level, it’s not easier because you still had a lot of distractions, but the student athletes knew that they were there for a purpose. It’s a little bit different here at HHS and in the high school level in general,” Burgess said.
Burgess’ background in coaching at the collegiate level and with how his parents approached academics led him to prioritize schoolwork with his players.
“My main thing is having the student athletes communicating with the teachers and the coaching staff,” Burgess said. “First and foremost, academics come first before any athletics event. I’ve kept kids out of practice so they can meet with a teacher or turn in assignments or get extra help because I know the importance of developing that strong foundation here at the high school.”
Junior Isaiah King is a year round athlete, running cross country in the fall, indoor track in the winter and outdoor track in the spring. King is aware of how the time commitment affects him as a student.
“I think it works in two parts. Athletics has affected me positively and negatively. It affected me positively because it prevents me from procrastinating and allows me to work efficiently and get all of my work done,” King said. “It also affects me negatively because you’re out at sporting events and get home at ten or eleven and you have to sit down and do homework. You’re physically drained the next day.”
Despite his success on the track, King’s parents still push him to be an even better student than he is an athlete.
“My parents pushing what I am. I’m a student athlete. Student comes first before athlete, so they definitely push my academics,” King said. “If my academics are doing okay then they can push me as an athlete.”
Being a year-round student athlete requires some compromises and tradeoffs, and the situation is no different for King.
“I’ve had to give up time hanging out with friends or just sitting at home relaxing. I have so little time for myself when I’m in season, so I really have to manage my time as efficiently as possible,” King said.
Senior Zoey Fox, a varsity swimmer, notices her productivity go up when she’s in season because of the increasing need for time management.
“I think athletics has affected me positively. Doing sports keeps me active and in shape, which helps me stay more focused,” Fox said. “I guess overall, athletics has affected me positively. I have a sport in the fall and winter but not in the spring, and I’m always way more productive in the fall and winter. So even though it’s harder to schedule things, I tend to get more stuff done. I also think I’m more dedicated to everything all around, because if I have too much free time, I’ll just sit around and do nothing.”
Fox admits that it’s possible to excel at both athletics and academics, but understands that it’s not easy.
“I think it’s possible to excel at athletics and academics, but I think that the way the system is set up, it’s really hard to do both of them. There comes a point especially in high school when you start having issues between them,” Fox said. “My sister swims very seriously and she swims all year around, and this year especially it’s been really hard for her to balance schoolwork and swimming. It’s also an argument in my family about whether my parents want her to swim in college or not. We’re afraid she’s not going to be able to do both just because the dedication required to do a sport full time is going to take time away from school. In my experience, I haven’t had that as much because I’m definitely more serious about academics than athletics. I just think it’s really hard to excel at both.”
Athletic secretary and varsity track coach Tricia Comfort is aware of the workload athletes have and encourages them to focus on that first.
“Myself and Coach Hertzler always tell our athletes that academics come first. We hold study hall every day after school and encourage our athletes to go check in with teachers if they have to,” Comfort said. “As far as my athletic secretary position, I’m responsible for checking grades of athletes, so that’s kind of a benefit for me as a track coach because I can personally check up on my specific athletes. I’m able to keep track of what exactly their grades are and what classes they need help in.”
In the postseason where the stakes are higher, Comfort doesn’t ask for more out of her athletes, just better communication.
“We require extra communication because during that time we expect them to come during practice. It’s important for them to be there, but we understand that they have work they need to get done,” Comfort said.
While it is difficult juggling academics and athletics, the coaches and athletes here at HHS all understand the importance of the former.

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Athletics affecting academics