9 Ways to Keep the Student in the Athlete

By Dave Ludba, Hockey Dad, Middle School Teacher, Entrepreneur

As a middle school teacher for 23 years, I have seen hundreds of elite student-athletes walk through my door. I have had athletes from almost every sport imaginable including hockey, soccer, basketball, baseball, track & field, equestrian, field hockey, rowing, swimming, and skiing. I want to share my knowledge with you around the best ways to keep the student in the athlete.

1. Expectations

It starts with you, the parent. You must set the bar for the importance of maintaining good grades at school over and above whatever success your child may be having in their athletic endeavours. If the grades start to slide, the sport must be put on the back-burner until there is an acceptable balance.

2. Planning

Use a big month-to-month calendar to plan out the athlete’s sport schedule (practice, games, & tournaments) in one colour and use a different colour to fill in the days when school projects are due.

3. Time Management

Now the child has a clear idea of when their major academic deadlines and athletic events are, they’ll be able to manage their time so that all of their school work is done. This might mean bringing homework on the road or joining an after-school study group. These are the sacrifices it takes to do well in both school and sport.

4. Responsibility

It is crucial for the athlete to not fall behind. Even if out-of-town competition forces them to miss the occasional Friday, they must still receive and complete whatever work they will be missing. If this is not done and the child falls behind, it is very likely that they will get overwhelmed by all the missed lessons and shut down.

5. Backup Plan

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone; an education will take your children much further than their respective sport. This is not to discredit the valuable life skills that are gained through sport but, let’s be a realist, very few athletes are able to make a living off their sport. No matter how good they are, every player is one injury away from hanging them up for good. They need to have something to fall back on.

6. High Achiever

Elite level athletes are programmed to compete and/or achieve high levels of success. Parents, teachers, and coaches can use this tactic as fuel to motivate them to do well in school by challenging them to perform at their best.

7. Escape

We’ve all heard the saying that sport is an escape from the real life (school, family, friends, etc.). But consider this for elite level athletes; school might actually be their escape from the pressure of their sport. It is a place where they get to go and have fun without worrying about their draft ranking, who is recruiting them, or how they are being judged.

8. Teacher’s Influence

If the pressure from sport becomes too much, it will carry over into their school life. If the child isn’t receiving the support they need at home (overbearing parents, neglect from overworking, parent separation, etc.), this needs to be recognized by the teacher who must offer additional emotional support. It will foster a relationship that will help the child want to succeed in school as much as their sport.

9. Triangle of Love

It is best to have an open line of communication between the teacher, parents, and coach so that everyone is always on the same page with respect to the athlete’s studies, performance, and behaviour.

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