April 12, 2013 | M. Alexander Kuhn
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Most parents want their children to have a positive experience playing sports. Among other goals, parents want their kids to play sports to boost their confidence, develop their work ethic and promote friendships.
However as children grow older and become more serious about athletics, parents may become concerned that sports could be a detriment to academics. It's time to put the "student" back in student-athlete and debunk three common myths.
Myth #1: Athletes Do Worse in School
This is actually one of the most widespread misconceptions. Recent studies show that, despite having less time, athletes earn higher GPA's than non-athletes. This is not to say that all children will perform better in school if they pursue athletics. The point is that athletics does not retard the academic progress of most student-athletes.
Myth #2: Athletes Don't Care About School
Stories in the media have a tendency to point out negative aspects of athletes' academic performance—e.g., highlighting the recent cheating scandal at Harvard. Stories like that obscure the great majority of student-athletes, who care about school and play by the rules.
Each year, the NCAA highlights teams that earn Academic All American status. This means the average GPA of team members was above 3.0. During the fall of 2012, 496 NCAA swimming & diving programs achieved this distinction. Swimmers devote huge amounts of time to practice and meets. They are just one of many examples demonstrating that athletes care about academics.
Myth #3: Athletes Are Less Motivated off the Playing Field
When you watch student-athletes compete on the field, you see their passion and intensity. Yet you rarely see the same level of intensity when they're studying, especially if a student dislikes school. There are two things to consider.
To perform well in academics, it is better to feel calm and relaxed. Like a golfer putting for a win on the 18th green, people perform better academically if they keep their emotions in check.
Many individuals (including non-athletes) are unsure where school is leading them. As they grow older and discover their talents and interests, they begin to visualize careers and better understand the purpose of school. Once this happens, they become extremely motivated to do well in school. (See 6 Reasons to Read Raven Magwood's "The 7 Practices of Exceptional Student Athletes".)