Sports are more than physical exertion. Sports are more than sweat. Sports are more than putting on sneakers. They are a way to test your abilities, are a way to challenge yourself, a way to develop into a better version of yourself. They help you grow, gain important skills and train your mind as much as your body. Not only that, but they really help in academics.
Our varsity athletes attend class in the day and then do two to three hours of training after class. If you don’t learn time management, you’ll fall behind your studies. What we see is our athletes excelling with this skill. They learn how to study correctly and effectively. They also learn how to best prepare for tests and how to get tasks done. I have one student who is a three-sport athlete, she plays all three seasons and has an A+ in her IB History class that’s also at a higher level – all because she’s been trained to have time management and be organized.
One of the strengths at our school is our diversity and that really shows on the field. As a coach, it’s interesting for me to see all of the different nationalities work together. We might have a student from Brazil play one way and a student from Norway play another and they take those differences and adapt them into their techniques so that they come out even stronger – as a team. We have a Norwegian student who gets tutored by his Spanish teammate for his Spanish class and this creates comradery that helps one another not just in the field, but also in the classroom.
I always tell my athletes to “get better every day.” By getting a little bit better every day, you’ll make your team better, so they become dedicated. They learn failure which is important since you don’t know what winning is like until you know what losing is like. We don’t win every game, but that doesn’t matter. Failing is a life lesson that can’t be matched anywhere else. When someone misses the winning point for the game, they then work harder in following practices to make sure they make the winning point for the next game. They’re committed and by working harder than before, that’s when you see the results, it’s all about putting in the effort.
As a teacher, the mature attitudes of athletes in the classroom is definitely noticeable. They are energetic, awake and attentive. They ask the right questions since they need to be prepared to study well and they help out any of their peers that they find struggling. They have their fingers on the pulse of the school and tend to command that pulse as well.
Varsity means the best of the best, but it doesn’t have to inflate your ego or make you work on a personal agenda. Not every student can be a starting athlete. This might be because they are just not at the right level yet or have other responsibilities. Regardless, I’ll still see those students that did not make the cut on the team coming into the gym and working on improving themselves. Not only that, but I do also see the varsity players finish up their training and go over to the others to help them practice and get better at their technique. No one here thinks they are better than anyone else and that humility takes you far in life.
It’s essential to note how much sports help a person become well-rounded, the type of person that universities look for. It’s something that not many are aware of. For admission to universities, it’s not all about test scores. This is not to undermine test scores, but universities are looking for a well-rounded person. Even if universities know that a student athlete will not be playing on their sports team, they still look for what this type of student embodies: a strong work ethic, time management and being a team player.
The catch phrase that I grew up with that I try to instill with our students is “impossible is nothing.” It’s part of a famous quote from Muhammad Ali and something that I try to bring into our realm of sports. If you work hard and you dedicate yourself to a goal, you will achieve that goal. It might take time, it might take sweat, it might take tears, but you will eventually get there if you work hard enough. So, impossible is nothing.
Written by Paul Giordano, IB History Teacher and Athletics Director at EF Academy New York