Sporting a Strong Mind


Fair Grove Boys High School Basketball Team in a team discussion at the 11/30 Clever Game. Photo provided by Hadie Wingo

Emma Schlak

Fair Grove High School has roughly 200 student-athletes; athletes who work for their place on their team while simultaneously working on their academics. How do student-athletes balance academics and sports, while maintaining a healthy mind and body?

High School can be difficult for students under normal circumstances; when adding in a sport it can affect you in different ways. Devin Carroll (12) has played basketball for his entire High School career; his season routinely begins in November and goes into mid-March. “I play my sport because I love being able to put time and extra effort into something that I can see the outcomes of.”

Often students are able to keep their grades up, but at a higher level of difficulty than during the off-season. 

“It takes a toll because I have to worry about practices, games, and anything else having to do with the sport and then do homework or projects on top of it so I’m exhausted trying to do something that normally wouldn’t take long but then takes like 3 hours,” shared Preston Kothenbeutel (12). Others embrace a stronger sense of prioritization and admit that there is an added level of difficulty, but it is manageable due to a sense of clarity and priority.

Many different things can affect a person’s mood. The overwhelming response concerning the player’s mood is that sports bring joy, but the joy that is accompanied by bouts of overwhelm, worry, anxiety, and even sadness as seasons and careers come to an end. “My mood is probably more positive in season,” shares Chloe Reynaud (12), “I feel like I have something to look forward to and sports is the thing I can go do that when I play it, nothing else in the world matters.” 

Of course, the mood response to athletics is as varied as the athletes themselves. While often feeling more on the edge and upset during the season, that postseason lull. Preston would describe his moods as “They are definitely more balanced and I don’t get upset as easily”

Stress from school mixed with stress from sports can affect people in different ways – each athlete has their own threshold for stress. “Personally, I feel less stressed during the season than I do out of season,” explained Devin, “My sport gives me a sense of being able to put things outside of basketball on hold and purely focus on the things going on out on the court and is almost kind of a refreshing feeling for me.” Preston shared, “They are pretty high I sometimes have panic attacks and when shuffling school, sports, work, and home it takes so much out of me.”

The broad scope of returns to the question ‘How do you feel?’ is just as varied when it comes to athletics as it is with any other subject. During the season, student-athletes can feel tired, overwhelmed, overjoyed, pushed to the max, part of the group, and feelings of success, as well as feelings of failure. But the overarching feeling of those in team sports is belonging. “I feel like I am complete when playing sports, like I belong and I am contributing to a team that is ultimately bigger than me,” stated Chloe Reynaud.

Athletes have responded to each of the individual concepts of academics, mood, stress, and feelings, but how does it all come together to affect their mental health? Can one feel stress or anger and yet feel the mental health response is still positive due to an emotional law of averages? Most students appear to feel that while there is a toll their sport takes on their mental health, it is a toll they are willing to pay for the benefits their sport gives in return. 

“I think sports have affected my mental health for the better. I have had times where my sport has frustrated me and has definitely caused irritation and anger, but it has also given me a sense of joy, accomplishment, and a reminder of how blessed I am to have the health and opportunity to be able to play sports with my friends.” Chloe went on saying, “Sports are one of the biggest factors when it comes down to my mental health. There are times when it can be stressful to the point where you want to quit everything, but then there are other times where if I did not have that sport I would be a mess.”