Balancing travel sports and school; can it be done?

Photo of the NCFC soccer club at the Puma Kings Cup in Charlotte, NC. The tournament was from February 3-4 and was a success for the team
Photo of the NCFC soccer club at the Puma Kings Cup in Charlotte, NC. The tournament was from February 3-4 and was a success for the team
Photos by Ryan Bridges

Almost every high school student does an extracurricular activity, some do art, some do music, but the most popular extracurricular activity in high school is sports . Most schools offer organized sports, and being a student-athlete is almost seen as high status. Sports are very important in those athletes’ lives, and those who wish to play outside of their designated school season play club sports, also called travel sports. While travel sports can bring excitement, competitiveness, and a way to socialize, athletes sacrifice a lot to play. 

I think it’s a lot because I have tournaments on the weekends as well, so it’s like six out of the seven days a week where I really don’t have time for other extracurriculars,” said Izzy Martin, sophomore. 

Balancing sports and school can be extremely stressful and taxing. Coming home after a two-hour practice to a pile of homework and studying is seen as a near impossible feat, and some athletes find themselves falling behind. 

“I feel like I’m kind of suffering. I did make the choice to not play club next year because my grades are kind of sinking, because I never have time for anything other than volleyball, and I just don’t really know how to prioritize,” said Martin. 

Many students share similar thoughts with Martin and are quitting club sports once they reach a certain age due to their workloads becoming too much to handle. Others are sticking with their sports, and see them not as a challenge but a part of everyday life. Sports are a way to get away from the stresses of school, see friends, and keep busy. 

Athens’ Traveling Athletes
Navigate Left
Navigate Right

“Clubs are super fun, cause like, you get to be with people that you don’t see all the time, so it’s like you’re reuniting every Sunday for practice. Club sports is just lifelong friends,” said Izzy Catalano, freshman. 

Clubs create incredible opportunities for students and athletes, most college recruitment is done at the club level, and since club seasons tend to run longer than school sports seasons, more chances for competition and scouting. For those students who wish to play at that level, playing club can improve their skills so they can “keep up” with other players. Another upside of club sports is that it allows players to develop strong connections with their teammates, which could be especially important for those who have trouble socializing in a normal setting. 

“There’s a couple weeks where there’s kind of a gray area and there’s nothing. But other than that it’s [nonstop],” said Ryan Bridges, sophomore. 

One of the biggest concerns of coaches, players, and families when it comes to youth sports is burnout. Wanting athletes to be successful while still being themselves, and having that opportunity to still be a teenager in high school; to be able to hang out with friends and attend football games, not just play them. Travel sports don’t run all year and usually have a couple of weeks break so athletes can rest, have a life outside of their club, and play school sports if they want. But if there is an overlap between club and school sports, the pressure and stress or sports double, and can be one of the most overwhelming times of the year.

On top of playing for the Carolina Dirt Dawgs, Catalano also plays for the Athens Softball team during the Spring Sports season. As of this year, softball unveiled their newest junior varsity team. (Photos by Jennifer Viets)

“During crossovers it was like, we had a volleyball game, and then I’d have to leave the volleyball game cause I couldn’t watch varsity, then I’d have to tell my coach that I couldn’t watch varsity. Go to practice, hit for an hour, go home, and I would probably have something to do after that because I do a lot of stuff. It was definitely a lot…” said Catalano. 

But how can students balance club sports and school? Is it even possible to be fully committed to both? Sports programs and teams like to think the answer is yes. Many club sports teams instill ideals of perseverance, growth, prioritization, and leadership in their athletes through their programs. These lessons for the future are not exclusively taught by club sports teams, but also school sports as well. One of the most important is leadership and prioritization, forcing themselves to make a schedule and/or balance of athletics and academics make sports easier, as well as future endeavors, such as jobs and post-secondary pursuits easier as well. 

I think it makes me a better student and a better person too. That I can balance stuff on me,” said Catalano.

Yes, sacrifices must be made, athletes don’t get the same free time that ‘normal’ students get, it’s easy to fall behind academically and socially, and playing during the club seasons limits one’s ability to play other sports. But playing club sports can play an important role in a student’s life, forming social bonds, exercising, and being a part of a team bigger than themselves raise our future athletes and leaders of the world. 

“My coaches are super lenient about it. They’re like ‘I mean as long as you’re active it’s cool,’ I missed like probably two practices a week with volleyball, but it’s really nice that they’re super lenient about it. Just as long as I’m super active, and I still practice at home,” said Catalano.

More to Discover
Our Goal