How Athletics vs Academics Impacts High School Students

(Top), Mac Jacobs running at cross country meet earlier this year, representing the Leesville Team at his meet. (Bottom), Maggie Bell’s induction in to her Vice President position at the NCASC State Convention in March (photos used by permission of Maggie Bell and Mac Jacobs).

Along the journey that is high school, there are many routes one can take all with the same goal in mind: walking across the stage during graduation. Depending on the road one chooses to take can decide how their four years at Leesville Road High School are spent. The paths of students differ between involvement in athletics and academics. 

Those who are heavily invested in sports tend to have a different high school experience than those invested in academics, yet there is of course overlap, where many students find great success. 

Mac Jacobs, a motivated and hardworking student athlete who has run at the varsity level all throughout high school, is an athlete on the track/cross country team at Leesville Road High School. Jacobs devotes much of his after school time to running, yet this commitment causes some stress. Learning to balance both the struggle of rigorous classes and lengthy after school practices requires “better time management skills, because I have to be able to find the balance to maintain both aspects of my life,” said Jacobs. 

Despite having a strenuous schedule both during and after school, Jacobs would not change his decision to be so heavily involved in sports because “it has provided [him] with [his] closest friends, and gives [him] an outlet to meet new people and get fit at the same time,” he said. 

The other route of high school, Emma Grace Johnson and Maggie Bell lean towards academics more heavily than sports. Johnson, a motivated, proactive, determined, and hardworking student, represents her class as Senior Class President and Vice President of National Honors Society.  Although Johnson does not participate in sports, she makes her impact in a huge way, by being involved heavily as a volunteer, as a student, and as a community member. 

Johnson, like Jacobs, has to manage her time effectively, at an attempt to balance daily babysitting, a job at Brixx Firewood Pizza, and officer meetings weekly for clubs she takes leadership positions in. Johnson must get her school work done “more diligently when [she] gets home, knowing there is only a limited, specific time to get work done,” she said. 

Johnson is so heavily involved because she enjoys seeing her work paid off. Johnson reflects her on time running prom, feeling proud of how it all turned out and very grateful for council’s dedication to committing their time outside of school to help out. Stress is also very prominent for those students managing high school expectations as Johnson agrees she “finds [herself] not having much free time after school to attend games or hang out with friends,” yet, despite this inconvenience, Johnson “really does enjoy excelling academically and having free time on the weekends.” 

The one thing Johnson does wish she could alter during her four years at school would be “becoming involved in the school earlier on,” she said. She does wish, however, that she had joined clubs and become involved earlier. Undeterred by fearing failure, Johnson said she would “be more disappointed if [she] did not try at all.”

Maggie Bell, another student at Leesville Road High School whose after school commitments solely revolve around academics, is an energetic, hardworking girl who strives to make the school a better place and the people inside it happier. Bell — student-body president, yearbook editor-in-chief, North Carolina’s Association of Student Councils first vice president — believes these experiences have made her high school experience so much richer and enjoyable. 

After school, Bell divides her time between Executive Council meetings, officer meetings, part time job hostessing, and attending events to capture pictures for yearbook. Bell enjoys her commitments, for they have given her “experiences that allow [her] to form connections with many different people, and gain experience that can help later in life,” she said. 

Due to her booked schedule, Bell finds herself often stressed out due to the amount of people her leadership roles affect, therefore, prioritizing her time for school and extracurriculars evenly is a daily struggle, but has been a valuable lesson for her along her journey. 

Bell realizes how impactful she is to her peers and the community around her, yet she wishes she worked less her junior year and allotted more time to other things outside of her job. Working four, at times five nights a week can be taxing, and balancing that with a surplus of AP classes takes a toll on anyone. “Other than that, I am really happy with everything I am involved in,” said Bell. 

Although each student’s route is different from the other, it is interesting they all share the same wishes/regrets, and the same skills learned throughout the way. Time management is a must, while learning to achieve equity in all highschool and extra events throw at you. Even though being heavily involved has its downsides, all students agree this has given them the opportunities to meet new friends, be impactful in a world outside of themselves, and achieve greatness in their community.


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