Are grades as important as sports performance? Participating in a sport while in school can be a very rewarding experience for students. However, at a time when talented athletes are leaving college early to pursue professional contracts worth millions, doing well in school is sometimes put on the back burner. Most school athletes never reach the professional level, and the ones who do are normally done playing by age 33. Maintaining the discipline to perform well on the playing field as well as in the classroom can set students up for future success long after their playing days are over.
A Privilege, Not a Right
Scholastic sports programs teach many valuable lessons that cannot be learned in a classroom. Courts have upheld for years that students should consider participating in a sport as a privilege, not a right. Athletics are extracurricular activities and not the primary purpose of the school curriculum. Although eligibility rules vary by school district and on individual campuses, most secondary schools and colleges require student-athletes to maintain a grade point average to participate. College admissions boards and potential employers will care a lot more about your school performance than your performance on the athletic field.
College Coaches and Academics
If you can demonstrate the ability to shoot a jump shot or throw a touchdown pass, college coaches will look for your ability to pass a math test and maintain a decent grade point average as well. The National Collegiate Athletic Association requires a minimum grade point average and minimum standardized test score as well as the successful completion of core courses in order for athletes to participate in college sports. Coaches often choose to recruit players who consistently meet these GPA requirements because the coaches believe these are students that will maintain those grades to avoid their losing scholarships or being put on academic probation. College coaches may avoid recruiting you if they think you can't handle the coursework in college because you haven't performed well as a high school student.
With the exception of big-time Division 1 college football and basketball programs, most colleges provide money to athletes in the form of academic scholarships. With 3.1 million high school graduates in 2012, and only 450,000 of those participating in college athletic programs, grades play a vitally important role in obtaining scholarships and and remaining eligible for financial aid.
Grades Show Character
There is a potential for athletes to represent the high school and collegiate schools they play for in very public ways at events. Students that don't maintain strong grade point averages don't reflect well on their respective schools. Balancing good grades with participation in extracurricular activities shows character and shows that students are capable of being well-rounded.
Many students chose to participate in school sports for strictly fun and exercise and will not play after high school. For both recreational and potentially-pro athletes, grades can ultimately be the most important aspect of a student's school experience. Once students graduate, academic performance plays a strong role in college choices and job applications. When a playing career is over, no matter how well an athlete does in their sport, making the grade in the classroom can help them make the grade in life.