Work before play: how do athletes find balance?


Jon Nelson ’16 (left) plays varsity soccer and last year took all honors classes. Credit: Henry Vogel/Big Red

Dario Madyoon

There’s a common saying that in high school: students have to choose between good grades, good social life or good sleep. For many students athletes at Harvard-Westlake, they have to shoulder the burden of working towards being good at their respective sports as well.

Still, Wolverine athletes aren’t the type to limit themselves. Instead of choosing to sacrifice, say, grades for their sport or their social lives, they choose to push through their trials, no matter how much time it takes. Last year, while starting on the varsity soccer team, Jon Nelson ’16 took exclusively honors classes, including A.P. Physics 1, and A.P. B.C. Calculus 11. Despite taking one of the hardest possible schedules in the school, Nelson found a way to succeed.

“I think in general you have to build up a certain amount of willpower to do anything out of the ordinary, but I’ve been better at handling my challenges on and off the field so far this year” Nelson said.” Its incredibly tough .Most of the time during soccer season, I get home between 9:00 and 9:30, and you really need to stay up late. Procrastination isn’t an option”.

For many students the adjustment in junior year can be especially hard. Along with a jump up from JV to Varsity, 11th grade is also when many students start to take A..s and other college-level classes. The jump does, however, provide a chance for kids to succeed in the face of adversity.

“It wasn’t really a problem on freshman and JV but now that I’m on varsity it can be really hard to balance” volleyball player Megan Barnum ’17 said. “Just the other night my coach had us stay and watch JV play and then our game started late so I got home around 9:30 and had all my homework to do. I was up until probably 2 am. While its really hard work, I find it gratifying. I wouldn’t trade being on the volleyball team for anything, it just makes this beginning part of the year stressful and tiring”.

One of the largest obstacles for ambitious student-athletes is learning how to incorporate free time into their schedule. Unfortunately, athletes who want to both play their sport at a high level and achieve academic excellence, can’t afford the luxury of taking time to simply relax.

“You have to use all the time that you have” field hockey player Claire Stevens ’16 said. “There’s no in between. I have to be doing homework or field hockey work. If you want to do well in sports and In school there’s not much time you can commit to anything else”.