Most sports teams require a minimum grade average, and, for the teen who struggles with school, this is great incentive to improve their academic performance. They will ask for help or for extra tutoring so they can maintain the grade point average they need to play sports. If they fall below the minimum G.P.A. they need, they will work hard to get back on track. The sport is the incentive, but graduating with grades that meet the minimum are the real goal.
For those teens that do well in school, sports can still be a carrot. They do better when they have the structure of sports to help them improve their organizational skills. They plan better and complete tasks more efficiently because they are pressed for time. When they have too much time on their hands, they tend to goof off too much, and so their academic performance takes a nose dive.
There is another subset of teens who are overwhelmed with how little time they have to study or the time commitment their sport requires. These teens have a tough choice to make: either quit sports, or cut back on other commitments (e.g. work, clubs, etc) if it means a lot to them to be playing high school sports.
Whether sports serve as a way to improve or maintain a teen's academic standing or end up hurting a teen's grades, the point is that while participation in team sports will benefit a teen both socially teach a lot about social skills, but they can also help or hurt your teen's academic performance. Only you know into which category your teen falls, so keeping this in mind will help you know what to do when your teen seems a bit frazzled with all they have to do trying to juggle sports and school. After all, their priority should be to graduate high school, but some teens need a little more of a push to get to that ultimate goal, and being able to play sports can sometimes provide that push.
Adekemi Oguntala, MD writes the blog TheTeenDoc. She is an adolescent medicine physician, author, speaker and educator, and mom from the San Francisco Bay area.
Posted December 13, 2010