Student-athletes are often encouraged or forced into this dual role from a young age. As a result, millions of adolescents participate in youth sports, in which some continue to play at the high school level. According to the NFHS participation survey, 7,931,591 student-athletes participated in high school sports during the 2018-19 school year.
There are many benefits of sports, such as building resilience, confidence and providing opportunities. However, in multiple podcast interviews, various former student-athletes mentioned that they didn’t start taking their sport seriously until high school where they noticed some options available to them. For example, Taj Dashuan, former football player now athlete transition coach, mentioned he started taking the sport seriously when he realized it could be used as a vehicle to college and beyond.
For student-athletes who strive to take their sport beyond the high school level, whether an opportunity for higher education or professional sports, there’s a particular image often favored by coaches, recruits, teachers, parents, and the community. Such as one who excels academically and athletically. In addition, one who embodies excellent characteristics, such as leadership and discipline.
However, students face some challenges as they strive to fit the ideal image of elite and high-performing student-athletes. But, the personal and societal pressures that are naturally a part of this journey may become a burden that most athletes aren’t necessarily prepared to face.
Fear of failure, fear of success, and fear of judgment are some fears that student-athletes may have early on in their athletic journey. However, with a hanging stigma of “athletes don’t cry,” some athletes may choose to suffer quietly.
This poses two questions :
Does the high school sport environment offer the opportunity for student-athletes to experience growing pains unapologetically?
As student-athletes transition out of sports, are they prepared and given the resources to help disconnect themselves from an identity they have molded themselves into?
As expected, the athletic experience comes with both rewards and challenges. Taking a look at athletics on the high school level, one thing that is important to note is how personal development should be a mandatory part of the student-athlete structure. Of course, external factors, such as performing well in the classroom and sport, are essential to reaching desired goals. However, teaching coping skills, accountability, communication, and other life skills creates a long-term benefit as it helps mold a person as a whole, not just the role of a student-athlete.
Change The Narrative
Butt, S. (1976). Psychology of sports. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
(1995). Sports counseling: enhancing the development of the high school student-athlete. Journal of Counseling & Development, 74, 39–44.
**Self-reflection is a great way for student-athletes to learn more about who they have become and who they are becoming. Learn about this free 5-Week “Dear Student-Athlete, Who Are You?” journal series. **