How to Support Your Elite Student Athlete: Tips for School and Home
Achieving academic and athletic success is a journey that involves students, family, counselors and teachers. It’s not easy and schools like Xceed exist to provide flexibility for balancing more than one priority. Still, even with accommodations, getting used to a new curriculum while improving at a sport can pose a learning curve for students.
But as Michael Jordan once said, “Never say never because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.” With the proper support and belief, you never know what great things your child will be able to accomplish. With that said, it’s important to know the difference between healthy support or encouragement and unhealthy overbearing control. Ultimately, it comes down to remembering what’s most important in life and doing things that help regulate this balance and boundaries in both of your lives. This includes the following:
Help them honor a healthy sleep schedule
According to National Sleep Foundation guidelines, adolescents should be getting between eight and 10 hours of sleep every night. For student-athletes in particular, research suggests it’s better to get at least nine or 10 hours.
Sleep is essential for recovery after exercise. Studies show athletes spend more time in slow wave sleep, the sleep stage where the body works to repair muscles, build bones, and manage energy stores. A good night’s rest is also important for better cognitive functions such as judgment, focus and decision-making, which make or break a win or loss and pass and fail.
Support nutritious food choices and meals
A vehicle can’t run well or for long without the right quality and quantity of fuel. The same goes for a person. That energy that powers each of us can make or break our trip to whatever destination or end goal we are trying to achieve. If you look up pro athletes such as Tom Brady or LeBron James, you will see they are very particular about what they eat in the heat of a season. Though student-athletes aren’t necessarily at that level yet, the importance of a good diet is emphasized by the importance of nutrition for growing teens.
Prioritize their mental health and well-being and express this importance
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Poor mental health can be just as detrimental to success as a physical injury if not taken seriously and treated properly. This fact, in the context of student-athletes, has become more apparent to the public over the past few years as there have been more cases of student-athlete depression and suicide. Make sure to check-in and be cognizant of shifts in mood or behavior. Teach them to do self-check ins and prioritize their own mental wellbeing.
Student-athletes go under a lot of pressure to not disappoint those around them including coaches, parents, teachers and fans. For this reason, they often forget about the one person who matters most— themselves. Athletes often get caught up in persevering and being tough. They fear asking for help for whatever the issue may be. Ultimately, this does more wrong than good, so it is important to encourage the power and necessity of speaking up for one’s own needs.
Assist in time management skill-building
Juggling both priorities strengthens a student-athlete’s ability to problem solve and make important decisions. This is largely developed on it’s own, but providing advice, tools or gentle insight can help support your student-athlete along the way.
Remind them that they are human and losing and bad grades happen
Not only do student-athletes have the pressure to win riding on them, but they also have the pressure to ace their math exam. However, both are not possible all the time. No matter how much we try, bad things, bad grades and losses are inevitable parts of life. Caught up in the heat of school and sports, teens may be in an unhealthy mindset of perfectionism. This only leads to disappointment as perfect doesn’t exist. Be a reminder to your student-athlete that they are human and it is okay if they don’t perform to the same standards everytime.
Respect the jobs of each “player” in your child’s success
Whatever your role may be, remember to respect the boundaries of everyone else involved in your student-athletes success. If you are a parent, don’t try and take on the role of coach and teacher all at once. Though you may feel anxious and a need to control out of love and care for your child’s success, it is not your place to take on these positions on. Like an athlete, you have your own speciality position that you have trained for and are knowledgable about. Attempting to take on the position of a goalie when you’re a left-winger won’t help anybody.
Find an educational option that works best for them – and you
Being an elite athlete does not mean that high-quality education is out of reach for your child. In fact, there are several options – from sports academies to private tutors – that will provide excellent academic support.
At Xceed Preparatory Academy, we take it a step further: with flexible schedules and a hybrid model of education, your student-athlete can excel in BOTH their sport AND academics. Our certified teachers have the ability to meet with students one-on-one or in small groups both on ground and online. Does your child need to train at different times throughout the day or travel for competition? No worries! As long as they have a laptop and internet access, they can complete their coursework anytime from anywhere.
Our students are all on personalized learning plans, meaning learning happens at their own pace. Some subjects may come easy to your child, while others may take a little longer to master. Or, perhaps they need a lighter schedule during their heavy competition season. At Xceed, our customized options ensure student-athletes stay on pace to graduate while their lives outside of school are celebrated and supported.