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Taking on a sport while still in school is a huge responsibility. Sports are just one responsibility out of many that student athletes at any age must juggle and overcome. Frank Jing-Horng Lu and others address some of the things that student athletes encounter: “repetitive and exhausting training, frequent travels and competitions, injuries, pressures to win and avoid losses, internal competitions between teammates, media pressures, and sometimes burnout” (254). Many studies have been done to evaluate these stresses on a normal student athlete and the results vary from study to study.
It is important to know what a student can take in on a daily basis and what stressors may be affecting their daily life. Stressors in a students life can come from a multitude of places. Pressure from parents, coaches, friends, teachers, family, and even colleges can contribute to a students sense of being overwhelmed. In accordance with these pressure sources, three main categories arise: mental health, social health and educational aspects.
Stress affects student athletes in characteristics such as mental, physical and educational.
Mental health is an important part of any students lives from adolescence to college age students. When given too many things to handle at one time and keep life flowing smoothly, it is inevitable that some things may fall through the cracks. Frank Jing Horng Lu and his colleagues say that “By using focus groups discussion and three rounds of the Delphi survey, the researchers identified 40 items that represent the most frequently reported life stressors experienced by college student-athletes” (257).
These forty items portrayed in the study show how many things that student athletes encounter throughout their time as an athlete. The items contribute to the excess stress of an athlete but also can show how many things a normal student athlete can maneuver in life successfully. In essence, the many things that student athletes deal with on a regular basis contribute to the mental health aspect of their life.
In addition to the many things athletes encounter, some anxiety stems from the action of playing the sport. Anxiety is present in athletes in team sports such as soccer and volleyball and independent sports such as track and field. Gershon Tenenbaum and Roberta Milgram found in their study that team and individual sports induce anxiety, though different kinds. They explain how individual sports present fear of embarrassment while team sports present the fear of failing others as well as oneself (692). As a student athlete, these sources of anxiety can take hold of one’s emotions and contribute to an unhealthy mental state. These types of fear can also cause a fear of participation leading to a lack of mental toughness that is a vital trait to have in middle school through college.
Regardless of all of the faulty mental traits that stress from sports bring, the stress can also be beneficial for your mental state. Markus Gerber and others describe how mental toughness gained from stressors help athletes perform better and be more elite. They also state how mental toughness helps manage large amounts of daily stress (164-165). When an athlete is presented with stressors on a daily basis they develop ways to cope with stress and maintain a strong mental state. This ability to cope shows that stress that a student athlete encounters is beneficial to the overall well being of an athlete. It can help with many different kinds of skills that are applicable to daily life, not just as a student in middle school through college age but also in adulthood. In brief, the mental state of a student athlete is altered due to stress. The alteration may be beneficial to the athlete or debilitating, but it is important to know the effects of stress on student athletes for these reasons.
Contrary to the mental health aspects of stress on student athletes, stress can also impact physical health. Injuries are very common among student athletes and can contribute to the stress of playing a sport. Carl E, Klafs and M. Joan Lyon explain how injuries and fear of injury can play a role in a females stress due to athletics (216). Injuries, being a physical characteristic of playing sports can stress athletes out making them uneasy about playing sports. This feeling of fear can cause athletes to tense up and make them even more vulnerable to injury. Ultimately, injuries and fear of injuries contribute to the stress of many student athletes.
In addition to the stresses from fear of injury, sport psychology also has characteristics of physical factors. Sport psychology is a science that focuses on stress of athletes, families, and coaches alike. In his paper, Amra Ahsan states, “Sport psychology is an interdisciplinary science that draws knowledge from many related fields including biomechanics, physiology, and psychology…Sport psychology may include work with athletes, coaches, and parents regarding injury [and] rehabilitation” (655). Because sport psychology has so much to do with stress in athletes, a reader can conclude that injuries and rehabilitation increase stress levels in student athletes. A student athlete may be afraid of injuring themselves because they wish to continue playing without any breaks of off-time. This can cause an athlete to overwork themselves and thus ironically making them susceptible to injury. In a word, stress can cause student athletes to vulnerable to injury.
Additionally, muscle stress is a prominent part of athletics. Jaqueline Carvalho-Peixoto and others found that in athletes, muscle damage and chronic diseases are caused by athletics and that consumption of tropical fruits can help reverse and prevent damage (725). Muscle stress and is as much a problem with student athletes as psychological stress. Chronic diseases and muscle stress can negatively impact the performance of student athletes in academics as well as in their athletic performance. In summary, stress impacts many physical aspects of life and can contribute to the overall stress and health of a student athlete.
Coupled with physical and mental health, education and academics play a role in stress, or lack thereof, in student athletes. In “Developing a Student Athlete Support Program” it is explained that stresses from collegiate student athletes come from superiors who stress that they must perform well in the classroom as well as in their athletics (2). The stress that comes from parents, coaches and teachers can have a negative impact on a student athletes academic performance and can cause large amounts of pressure to be carried by the athlete. It is too much for one person to be pressured every day to not make mistakes and perform possibly beyond their capabilities. Students should not be pressured by all of their superiors and should have an outlet to express their concerns about the amounts of stress they have.
Despite the stress that collegiate student athletes encounter, child age students are also put under stress to perform well in many aspects of life. Aimee Kimball and Valeria J. Freysinger show, in their article, that participation in sports during childhood has a positive impact on development, reasoning, identity, and maturation (117). The traits that are gained during childhood athletics are needed to succeed as a student athlete through college. The development and reasoning are needed in order to draw conclusions and for study skills. Other traits gained from childhood sports are needed to eliminate stress in the future. These skills could help with a future student not procrastinate and manage their time as well as help with study skills to pass tests. As a child finds their identity in sports in can help eliminate phases in life where they are trying to find a niche so they can focus on school and whatever activity or sport they choose to pursue.
In the same fashion as learning skills during childhood, the skills learned from sports help athletes at older ages be more prepared for the things that life throws their way. Pascal Chabaud and others confirm that in a sport, deadlines need to be met and good organizational skills need to be had in order to do well. Many collegiate athletes expressed that the skills they learned in sports help them in the classroom and help to reduce their overall stress levels (1042). These skills that a person learns from playing sports are hard to obtain any other way. Other things that are learned from playing sports during an impressionable time are teamwork, time management, how to push oneself to the brink of their abilities and how to take direction so one can grow. This growth that is acquired from the stress of playing a sport helps many students in college. Though, many do not think of younger children as student athletes, they have many of the same pressures as a collegiate athlete. They have to respect their elders, perform well in the sport of their choice and do well in school to please their parents. These stresses shape the kind of person that they will grow to be. All in all, stress plays a role in the overall performance of any age of student athletes.
To sum up, stress affects student athletes is many ways. Characteristics like mental health, physical health, and academics are the three main parts affected. Mental health can be strengthened or weakened by the stress that a student athlete encounters. The way that stressors affect a person depends on the way that they think and how they approach stress. Physical health is also affected by stress. If a person is stressed due to injuries, it is possible that they become more prone to injury. The way that a student athlete deals with physical stress on their body can play a large role in how they play and perform both in their academics and athletics. The academics of a student athlete are also affected by stressors on a student athlete. Pressures from parents and teachers to do well in the classroom are the biggest academic stressor of a student athlete. These stressors are introduced to children if they play sports at a young age. Students who were forced to balance school and athletics express how they think they were prepared to take on the larger student athlete task at a college level.
All things considered, one can imagine the amounts of stress that is presented to student athletes. In a quote, Albert J. Figone states in his journal, ‘Teacher-Coach Role Conflict: Its Impact on Students and Student-Athletes’, that “The primary goals for coaching are: (1) display for sports fans, and (2) the promotion of positive institutional relations” (29). This show how athletics are based on an ambition to perform as well as possible and to boast about how the athletes perform well in school as well. This can be shown in real life scenarios such as ‘Student Athlete of the Week’ awards. It is a sense of pride with coaches, schools, clubs and teachers that their athletes and students perform well in spite of the immense amounts of pressure that the same people are pushing upon the student athletes. Stressors can be reduced under certain circumstances. These could include building time into the school day for student athletes to finish homework, reduce the long, tiresome practices and training or even just reduce pressure on the student athletes and assure them that it is okay to not be perfect at everything they do. As much as stress brings student athletes to be overwhelmed, some amounts of stress are good or even considered healthy. Finding balance in the stress amounts given to student athletes can make a big difference in how they perform in the classroom and in the arena.
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