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As a physical education teacher and youth and high school coach (into my 44th year), I've gotten to see a lot of promising young athletes and have observed the paths they have taken. I've come to the conclusion that it is vital in the elementary school years to establish within the student, a good academic work ethic. I've seen countless very talented athletes just not willing to apply themselves to their academics, and it drastically impacted their future athletic opportunities. High schools can't just put athletes out there on the field or court, irrespective of their academic standing, and colleges can't even admit students whose academic records are deemed not good enough. In addition, the student's academic performance can be huge factors in being able to afford college through scholarship opportunities.


I've gotten to see this up real close as our son was selected as the 5th grade's "Exemplary Student" before leaving elementary school. This was followed by his earning a huge academic scholarship coming out of middle school to help pay for his attendance to a private high school so he could play football in the WCAC, which is rated as the second toughest high school football conference in the nation. After high school, the combination of academic and football scholarship offers allowed us to be able to afford a college that was an ideal fit for our son. We were even able to turn down an offer where all of the expense would have been paid for based on academics, but I didn't feel that the football and social aspect was good for our son. After four successful years in the classroom and on the football field, our son graduated and presently has a very good job in his field.

For a plan that includes academic and athletic considerations starting before the child is even born, check out my Raising a Successful Student-Athlete page. Below is a summary of important academic aspects to consider for a student's school years.


Start of the School Journey


Ideally, the child enters elementary school with certain basics in place. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, so the Pre-K and Kindergarten years become especially critical in providing a base that future teachers may build upon. Skillful teaching is a necessity, but also vital in this is participation from someone in the home to help support instruction given in school, and to help hold the student and teachers accountable. These elements continue to be essential at least throughout the elementary, middle, and high school levels.


Something I would tell my elementary schoolers, "if you won't put forth the effort to do the comparably little bit of homework given at this level, it will be very difficult to deal with it at the middle school level and high school levels where the amount of homework given increases." Again, this takes someone in the home to see that this effort is given. Effort doesn't always mean success, so if a child needs extra help, many school systems offer free tutoring options. There is also Learn To Be online tutoring that is free. Someone in the home, however, has to take the initiative to see that this is taken advantage of. Merely telling the child, "if you bring home bad grades, you won't be allowed to play sports", without someone rolling up their sleeves to put in the work to help support the child throughout, is very inadequate and an unfortunate circumstance. 


As for coaches, you obviously are tasked with trying to get the best out of the child athletically, but during the relationship with the young athlete and the family, hopefully you are able to inquire about the child's status as a student so you may weigh in as well.

Ideally, at some point, you want the student to embrace the challenges that academics presents. This doesn't mean that support from within the home isn't still needed, but it won't be as much of a struggle if the student has "bought in". At the end of the day, although certain academic facts that the students were required to learn in the classroom may not directly impact their future successes in life, but the ability and willingness to apply themselves mentally to their chosen occupations and tasks is priceless. Even if the child ends up being a professional athlete, it still is imperative to prepare for life after sports.

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