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The Changing Athlete Mentality

By: Grace Harrington and Isabel Danzis

College pennants are strung against the window, colorful flyers detailing university visits are taped up against the wall. Inside of the counseling office, a few students sit on plush leather chairs, waiting expectantly. In the midst of college application season, pressure fills the air. Notoriously facing the most pressure are student athletes, especially as the colleges more commonly demand AP, IB and Honors courses, along with consistent participation in a sport. But do the student athletes of 2017 really face more stress now than student athletes have in the past?

According to counselor Richard Gordon, yes and no. Student athletes are under more pressure from the school to take advanced classes and maintain high grades while playing a sport, where as in the past, they may have not been. Student athletes also participate in tournaments, games, and practices, all of which can cut away at time in school. Injuries also contribute to time away from school. Even just ten years ago if an athlete had a concussion, they would come to school. Now, “you can’t come to school, you can’t look at a screen,” says Mr. Gordon. Yet, Mr. Gordon doesn’t think that the amount of work an athlete must do has changed. He adds that time-management and learning how to prioritize are two things that colleges look for in student athletes.

Chad Young, a former student athlete turned cross country coach and math teacher here, at B-CC, agrees. “I think it’s about the same,” he said on average workload of an athlete now versus in the past. In high school and college, Mr. Young ran cross country and track, and played baseball. Speaking as a once student athlete, Mr. Young doesn’t believe that it was too difficult to balance school and sports, as long as a student can learn time-management skills. When Mr. Young began coaching cross country thirteen years ago, the social aspect of the team was the largest component. Now, it’s more competitive and the runners are “just a bit more uptight about grades.” Balancing school and sports has not gotten more difficult, nor has the workload increased, but the student athlete mentality has changed. Grades and college applications often take a precedent over the fun, social aspect of sports. Students take advanced classes while committing the rest of their time to sports, putting pressure on themselves. Some students join teams for the sole purpose of putting it on their college application, however others do join because of their passion.

“That was not even a thought when I was in high school,” said Ryan Ingalls, Varsity Girls basketball coach and science teacher, referring to the students who join teams just to put it on their college application. Ms. Ingalls played basketball in high school and college. She believes that now, “in the community, in the school, there’s more pressure” versus when she was in high school. She compares this to when she was a student athlete and the pressure to succeed and maintain  good grades came from yourself and not from external sources like it is today. Although there is more stress on student athletes today, Ms. Ingalls claims that sports can be “an outlet” for this pressure. The team forms a community that helps support every member, which can be a great thing to lean on in stressful times. In addition to that, in order to be successful in school and in a sport, you have learn good time management skills which is essential to life beyond high school.


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