Keep your head in the game


Emma Simpson/ Unsplash

Avajosephine D, Chief Reporter

 As sports become more common for high school students to participate in, it is essential to keep students’ mental health in check. 

“Playing a sport is important because you can relieve your stress while playing a sport if you really enjoy the sport. Playing a sport helps with physical health as well,” said freshman Cross Country runner Bianca L. 

Exercise causes the body to release endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that relieve discomfort and anxiety. People who exercise more often prevent themselves from mental illnesses and feel more energized throughout the day. Although participating in sports prevents students from feeling stressed, it can also cause students to feel stressed. It is crucial to have good time management to balance a sport and school. 

“Swimming is a little bit of relaxation and stress. You can swim away from the stress of outside factors like school, but at the same time, it can cause stress; sometimes, at practice, you are thinking about all the work you have to do and tests you have to take the next day or meets you need to perform well at. Stress can cause bad grades, loss of sleep, and anxiety. It taught me time management but also how to alleviate stress and to know that it is okay to put school first sometimes, ” said senior swim team captain, Paige S.

 Athletes may feel stressed at times, but they have their teammates by their side to comfort them when they need a little motivation. 

“My favorite part of participating in a sport is the friends I make. Every year I meet the younger girls and try to befriend them the best I can. I love to connect with people and feel united with the girls on the team. It helps my mental health as I feel I have people to talk to if something bothers me. I know they won’t judge me,” said senior cross-country runner Kelsey T.

 When connections are made with teammates, students tend to enjoy the sport more. Social interaction leads the brain to think freely while making students feel comforted. When distracted by conversations with friends and coaches, the brain is also distracted from anxiety. 

It may be tricky at first to accommodate the short amount of time someone who is an athlete and a scholar could have, but gauging what works for you is vital. 

“Have a schedule. Set time for work and when you have time for athletics, making sure you can get everything in and spreading work out over a long period if possible. If it’s due the next day, then you have to do it that night, but if you have longer-term projects, you should visualize how long that would take you and chunk it into smaller pieces so that you can get it done. A lot of skills shown when playing a sport can be translated into academics resiliency, building organization skills, and creating a sense of purpose what is done in the sport is very specific to that sport; once you take it into the classroom, it is generalizing those skills,” said school psychologist and football coach, Dr. Matthew Cardinale. 

Based on an individual’s environment, their behavior also can be affected. Studies like  the Rosenzweig, Bennet, and Diamond experiment in 1972 have shown that if you’re in a happy environment with stimulatory social interactions, the brain increases in size and thickness. For example, based on the role of environmental stimulation on brain plasticity. 

“Depending on my environment, I usually tend to be very extroverted. For example, if I’m in an environment where there are a lot of people, I like to meet new friends and get to know the types of individuals I’m around. This allows me to have positive behavior. Being exposed to large groups enables me to improve my communication skills and introduce myself to unfamiliar faces. This affects the type of person I’ve become because the more I interact with people, I get a sense of who they are and realize the type of people I enjoy surrounding myself with is a reflection of you as a person,” said junior IB psychology student Rayna K.

Some students act completely different while they are playing their sport versus participating in the classroom. The environment which they are in impacts their mental health significantly. 

“Cross country gave me the opportunity to meet so many people who have now become some of my closest friends. It grew me as a student by teaching me perseverance and how to manage my time well by balancing extracurriculars with my academics. I grew into a happier person because I had something to look forward to every day, which was seeing all the wonderful people I ran with,” said cross-country runner Madeline P.

If you are considering participating in a sport, it teaches an endless amount of lessons that will be used throughout athletes and students’ entire lives. Many students will forever have nostalgia of specific locations where practice took place. 

“The most important thing is that it teaches you to put yourself first and your mental health before your sport and that there’s no shame in not having a healthy mind. Your coaches are there to listen to you and support you; they are always someone you can talk to, especially about mental health,” said Paige S .

Sports may also help an individual learn about who they are based on trial and error. 

“Being a psychologist and a coach, I have a unique perspective; although there are ups and downs of sports, I believe it creates protective factors, it creates teamwork, creates a family atmosphere, so it allows some of the stress that may be occurring in the school day to be alleviated while you are on track or the football field, or the basketball court or wherever you may be,” said Cardinale. 🔳