More powerful than elephants, faster than cheetahs, and fiercer than lions…student athletes are the strongest species to walk this Earth. And this is especially true for those at Montclair High School.
Student athletes are put up to the challenge of balancing school and a sport—a feat that may not appear so difficult at first glance but upon further examination may be viewed as nearly impossible. Yet, they do it with such ease, like a circus performer dancing across a tightrope.
This dance across the tightrope is made especially difficult with the large workloads MHS teachers assign. Freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors alike are bogged down in schoolwork for a majority of the year; combine that with extremely long practices and you have the life of the student athlete!
Most MHS athletic teams hold their practices everyday from three till after the sun slips under the horizon. On game days, the day ends even later considering both JV and Varsity play hour-long games that can sometimes be in towns that are an hour to two hours away.
By the time they get home, there’s not nearly enough time to do homework…let alone eat dinner.
“It’s really hard to balance your schoolwork with practice because there really is just no time,” says junior field hockey goalie Katie Cantine.
While, yes, these appear to be unfavorable conditions, the positive effect they have on student athletes’ lives is actually quite surprising. Having limited time to work actually forces many MHS students to buckle down and dedicate themselves whole-heartedly to their schoolwork.
“Not having a lot of time when I get home from practice to do my homework forces me to focus,” explains Cantine. “I actually get a lot done.”
“During season I rarely go on my Facebook when I’m trying to do my homework,” says one junior. “I’m actually more productive when I’m in season.”
Bridget Festa, a junior who plays both softball and field hockey, agrees, “If I didn’t have practice everyday after school until six, I guarantee you I’d be seriously procrastinating. But because I get home so late and know I only have so much time to get my work done, I actually do my work.”
This balancing act isn’t always a flawless dance. It can be a little clumsy at first, especially for freshmen students. The combination of receiving high school assignments for the first time and tough practice schedules can culminate in extreme stress.
“It’s pretty hard getting my work done after practice considering I’m just so tired!” lamented one doe-eyed freshman.
Advice to these young frosh? Don’t worrry, because it becomes easier.
“Now that I’m a senior I’m used to managing my homework with field hockey,” says senior Courtney McMorrow. “It gets easier as the years go on.”
Additionally the feeling elicited from being a student athlete for four years is simply something you can’t buy.
Not a single senior, including myself, regrets committing themselves to a sport for four years at MHS. Having played field hockey since my freshman year, I have not looked back and wished I’d quit to focus more on school. Field hockey was what kept me grounded, and, in actuality, was what kept me driven to succeed in my academics.
Other athletic seniors agree without a hint of hesitation.
“I’ve love playing soccer for the high school and I love being captain of the team. Balancing it with school hasn’t been a horrible experience at all,” says varsity soccer captain Oliver Murphy. “Of course school is my priority, but it’s nice to be able to do something that I’m passionate about as well.”
However, if the stress of the two is too much to handle- there’s no shame in quitting. As many student athletes will attest, school is their number one priority- and if the balancing act becomes to tough, they’re more than willing to drop their athletics.
“I played field hockey my freshman year but I just knew, with the course load I was taking, that it would be just too much to balance both practice and school,” explains senior Ana Petrovolsky. “Yeah, it would have been great to continue playing, I loved it, but I just really wanted to focus on academics. I don’t regret my decision at all.”
Balancing sports and academics can be quite a challenge, but it’s a rewarding one that forces MHS students to play and work hard, which ultimately leads them to success.