Sweating and Stressing: What It’s Really Worth

Ashley Hill  is a senior in the Academy as well as a captain for the Girls Varsity Soccer team. She has been named as one of the “Girls Soccer Players to Watch” by NJ High School Sports, and on top of this manages to maintain a 98 to 99 average in all of her classes. When asked about how she manages to curb this mind-blowing amount of stress, she simply replied, “What I try to do after practice is force myself to get my homework done, right then. Sometimes I won’t eat dinner for an hour or two hours just to get my homework done. I try to force myself to get my work done before I go to sleep or distract myself or anything like that. I know it’s important to get a good night’s sleep and get all my work done during the season.”

Ashley is right about getting a good night’s sleep. On average, twelve to eighteen-year-olds need to get at least eight and a half hours to ten hours of sleep a night, according to helpguide.org. Hill revealed she was only able to get seven hours of sleep a night, due to her three hours’ worth of homework. In some extreme cases, Hill admitted, “I have pulled all-nighters before.” The effect of getting little to no sleep is more than just tired eyes. It can cause depression, forgetfulness, a decrease in learning, as well as in thinking. However, studies show that athletes tend to have higher grades than those of non-athletes. Playing a sport raises GPAs, decreases the chance of dropping out, and creates a stronger commitment to school work when compared to a non-athlete.

Besides the occasional frustrations, sports can decrease stress levels. Ashley even stated, “Soccer definitely helps with my stress, a lot.” The science behind this is pretty basic: When participating in physical activities, your body releases neurotransmitters known as endorphins. Endorphins are responsible for creating a positive mood in your brain, which in turn make you happier. When in a positive mood, people tend to release stress more easily and worry less than if they were in a negative mood. In terms of stress, a sport can be considered more of a stress management technique than a stressor.

Having a social life during sports season may seem impossible. When questioned about her social life, Hill explained, “My social life during the season becomes my team.” Ashley makes a key point: socializing with those on your team does in fact count as socializing. Making new friends can never be a bad thing; in fact, the exposure to different people on the team can become a helpful tool in the long run. During the teenage years, people figure out who they are, who they want to be, and what they want to do with the rest of their life. The socialization that comes with being on a sports team can ultimately help guide individuals in a positive direction.

There is no question that the daily routine of a student athlete is a busy one. Ashley admits that she has occasionally become a victim of that stress. “There have been times where it has been really overwhelming…For the most part, I am able to handle it; it’s just occasionally with the work I have and on top of soccer it can become too much.” In the end, the best way athletes can handle stress is by being just that: athletes. As stated by Ashley, “Take it out on your sport…Try to relax and just take all that stress and feeling into your sport to make yourself better.” In the end, that’s what all the stress is for: playing a sport you love. Once in a while every athlete needs to remember that.