From Physical Fitness to Mental Agility: An Athlete’s Academic Advantage

Sports may correlate to improved academic performance and promote positive classroom behavior.


Cartoon by Alexa Gamo

Sports are commonly viewed as purely a form of physical activity, but there is more to exercise than just burning calories and building muscle. As a volleyball player, I understand that it is easy to become overly fixated on physical fitness, but it is important to acknowledge that my sport can help me with my school work. Surprisingly, sports can benefit athletes academically by showing them what it takes to succeed, providing them with a chance to develop perseverance, dedication, hard work, as well as teamwork, and imparting health benefits that aid mental performance.

Athletics motivate students to succeed academically. For instance, a study conducted by South Dakota State University indicates that athletes are more likely to show up for class, finish their degree and transition more easily from high school to college than non-athletes. Participation in sports during high school motivates athletes to maintain academic excellence, which can prepare students for life after high school.

Not only do sports teach students that hard work is the secret to success, but it also encourages the development of healthy habits such as time management. During volleyball season, we have three-hour practices every day, which pushes me to use my time more wisely than if I were not in season. Athletics have taught me the importance of managing my time when it comes to homework and studying, as it is important to make time for both practice and academics.

Additionally, athletics teach values that can carry over into students’ academic lives. For example, many important skills such as perseverance, dedication, hard work and teamwork, can be learned through participation in sports. As an athlete, these skills are ingrained into volleyball because the mastery of them in each individual on the team is both crucial to the team’s success and helpful with their own performance inside classrooms. This is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which found that physical activity leads to better behavior in class, including being able to concentrate on work and stay on task more easily.

Finally, the health benefits that are achieved by taking part in athletics can help students improve mental performance. This is shown in a study by the Universities of Strathclyde and University of Dundee, which found that regular exercise can improve test scores. While many students would consider long hours of studying as more beneficial for their grades than a jog, exercise is linked to improving grades.

Sports can serve as a break from schoolwork and also sharpen focus. When playing a sport, the student is exempt from focusing on anything but the game, which can provide a chance for stress relief and a temporary escape from school work while making studying a little more manageable. From personal experience, I have learned that participating in sports has helped me take my mind off of the stresses of academics as I focus on playing the sport that I love.

Sports and athletics not only provide a way to exercise but also help students learn and master the skills that are required to be successful academically. In other words, athletes can feel good about taking sports seriously because it can enable them to be more physically active and improve their performance academically at the same time.