Sports Sports Opinion

Playing a Club Sport: Is It Possible?

Andover is an academically rigorous school, known for its highly competitive atmosphere. Not only is there competition to achieve the top grade, but there are other areas in which students are competitive as well. There can be competition within extracurriculars — who can do the most? Or even competition within athletics — can you be a tri-varsity athlete, all while maintaining top grades, holding leadership positions, and being on the boards of various clubs? Someone who can juggle all of these aspects is what the Andover community calls an “ideal Andover student,” and who does not want to be the ideal? My question lies here: Is it possible to be the “ideal Andover student” while playing a club sport outside of school, which some may believe is crucial for athletes to reach the varsity level?

The typical Andover student spends about four hours on coursework outside of classes each day. according to the 2022 State of the Academy (SOTA). If we also account for the average Andover student’s night of sleep — 6.65 hours according to the 2022 SOTA — the length of an Andover student’s day is about 13 hours long. With the long 6.5 hour school day, we are left with about 6.5 hours in a day. The remainder of the day is dedicated to sports and extracurriculars. A high commitment sport lasts about two to three hours. After sports, the student-athlete is only left with approximately four hours in the day and after meal-times, only 2.5 hours remain in the day. The remaining time would be reserved for club meetings or club sports. 

Athletes will participate in club sports to develop their athletic abilities. Club sports are used to get athletes to the next step in their athletic career, whether it be helping them make varsity at their high school or assisting them in the college recruitment process. Club sports will meet three to seven days a week depending on the sport and commitment level. Club swimming, for example, will typically require eight practices a week — including one morning practice — taking away sleep from the already extremely short night of rest. Travel time is a necessary factor to work in. Most club sport athletes are day students because it is more convenient to arrange transportation. Boarding students can request a ride from a day student friend or pay for an Uber to the practice location. They will, however, have to take sign-in into account and may have difficulty participating in a high-commitment sport if the practice location is far away. 

Self-care, changing for practices, showers, and getting ready for bed also take up time in the day. There is simply no time left. Of course, all these habits are all necessary. However, when the student-athlete begins running out of time, certain things are cut out from their lives. Sleep, eating, and self-care are slowly moved down on their lists of priorities until it begins to affect their mental and physical well-being. 

Andover students have a certain mindset, constantly urging them to be doing as much, if not more, than their peers. Thus, Andover students believe that they are “never doing enough,” and to get to where they want to go, they need to do absolutely everything that is offered at Andover — an impossible task. Club sports take away from time that Andover students can use for extracurriculars based on campus, which can make it seem like select club athletes are not dedicated to achieving their school-related goals. 

Earlier I mentioned the belief of the existence of an “ideal Andover student.” This student has top grades, is on the board of practically every club, and is a varsity athlete. I believe the “ideal Andover student” notion to be harmful and counterproductive. It is nearly impossible to achieve all of these things without sacrificing one’s well-being. I do believe it is possible for one to participate in club sports along with a high-commitment school sport, but not without making certain adjustments and changing one’s priorities in perhaps detrimental ways.