Thursday, May 21, 2009

Inching Those Grades Upward: Finding Balance Between Sports and School

You might have noticed we've been riding Eldest of late. His grades last trimester included two C's which is completely unacceptable in this family.

He hadn't even been trying.

He may have not gotten the right fit of teachers this year, but there was no denying the F he got on a English project that required several paragraphs of explanation and he wrote a scant four word sentence in place of each paragraph.

Four!

He also didn't try on his standardized tests this winter and his scores dipped as low as 35 percentiles.

We were shocked. Was it comprehension or sheer laziness and attitude tested that day?

Education is so important to us and always has been.

I think we might have gotten off course and actually considered dropping swimming entirely last week because while, honey, swimming might get you some scholarships and get you entrance to some universities you might not have been able to attend otherwise if you are good, it doesn't pay the bills.

Ask Aaron Piersol. Ask Jason Lezak. Yep, as Newsweek monickered him, he's "America's Unemployed Olympic Hero."

What did he get for his gold medals over several Olympics?

3-4 speaking engagements and $1750 monthly which barely covers the mortgage.

I've heard Megan Jendrick, being on our team, is also not raking in the dough.

I'll take my son having an education and career over some stinking medal any day.

And yet, we've invested so much time on this sport that our children love.

Sadly, all these academic UN-achievements came at the same time that we discovered that Eldest was ranked 38 in the nation for one of his events in his age group. He made top 100 on a couple more.

Sigh.

Lovely. Sometimes it seems to be a choice between academics and swimming.

He loves swimming. His friends and social circle are there. It's his thing. But he used to love to read? He used to get great grades? Where did that boy go?

So, when grades faltered yet again, there was nothing left to take away. Already gone was his iPod, DS, Wii, computer in room, cell phone, Facebook account, and grounded indefinitely?

So? We took away the summer rec. team. I told him he couldn't participate.

Then today?

I check his grades online and the C's are now a B and B-. The rest are at least an A-.

He's coming around just when I am deciding we need to find some balance.

So I'm faltering. Do I turn rec. team into a carrot rather than stick? Is that considered a bribe?

I went ahead and told him if he gets five A-/B+s and no less than a B in the last class, Rec team is back on the table.

Was I wrong? Am I wrong to let swimming take over our life?

Swimming seven days a week. Some days we leave for swimming at 3:30 and get home at 9 PM.

Dinner is eaten on the run most nights.

Homework is done in the car, in the stands of the pool, or at the nearby library.

CG begrudges the time swimming takes away from family.

All other sports and activities have fallen by the wayside.

I'm trying to figure out the balance.

Anyone out there have a child in a sport that requires such a time commitment?

Were you in a competitive sport to this extent as a child?

How did you make it work? Or did it work? Was it worth it?

Any advice?

How does one deal?

Thx for the Flickr pics by billaday, by A. Dawson, by garybirnie.co.uk , and James Jordan

11 comments:

Mamapajama said...

Swimming 7 days a week? Are you insane? I totally get it that your kids really love swimming, but as the parent, you have to draw the line in the sand somewhere. My kids are in travel soccer and they still only practice once a week with one game on the weekends. They are also in cub scouts, but that's only 1 hour a week w/ occasional fun family events on the weekends. It's more than enough for this full time working Mom. I also have to find time to clean the house, take care of the pets, and help with homework. It's just my opinion, but I'm not covinced your going to look back on this time of your life with fond memories. I treasure family meals with my husband and kids. We eat, joke, tease and catch up on each other lives. It's not every night of the week, but at least 4 out of the 7 days. You should give yourself a break, cut back on the swimming to a few days a week. At least give it a try and see how it goes. Just a suggestion. As far as the summer rec goes, I wouldn't give it back to him as a reward for pulling up his grades when you just took it away from him for not doing well. You have to show them that you mean what you say. But of course, I can be a real hardass sometimes. Kids these days don't know how good they have it!

JamaGenie said...

mamapajama said pretty much what I was going to say. Kids go to school to get and *education* that they can use *all* their lives. Even if they get an athletic scholarship for college, they still have to **keep their grades up** or the scholarship is history. And then where is he??

Better Eldest get the hang of making good grades again *permanently* than only bringing them up when he's in danger of losing swim or rec time.

Swimming 7 days a week?? NO WAY!

Brandi said...

My husband and I made the (controversial among our friends and family) decision that our kids will not participate in any activity that requires more than one night a week away from home. We've got three kids, so that's already 3 nights. And my husband is in the military, so add in deployments, TDY and late hours--which means it's all on ME. Plus, you grew up LDS--that's another night a week for scouts, etc...

As for your situation, that seems like a lot of time devoted to swimming. But, if as a family everyone is willing to make the necessary sacrifices, then there's nothing wrong with it.

Also, I think it's perfectly acceptable to use swimming as a bribe. A carrot. A reward for hard work academically.
There's nothing that says he has the RIGHT to swim. It's a privilege, and privileges need to be earned.

~Brandi

Chilaxsilly-Amy said...

I feel ya on this- My son, J has been slipping, his is pure laziness really. He can do the work he just really doesn't like it. I have countered taking away his beloved soccer games if his grades fall below a c for the week. It's helped a great deal. He now has to work for it. I can't imagine leaving at 330 and not getting home till 9 am.. Where is there free time to just laz around or find what else they love- but- obviously your kids will gain hard work- determination- and a great many other skills from being hard core in swimming- balance can be hard to find- but- who knows, he could be really spectacular at it- like- Phelps- SO- I don't have really great advice, more just understanding.Hope you find the balance that works for YOU ALL..

Anonymous said...

*Disclaimer: I have a one-year-old only and know nothing*

I would keep the swimming going. It offers so much in terms of self-esteem and identity and all those things teenage boys need but don't get from the classroom, even if schoolwork comes easily to them. I would make swimming a carrot and not a stick. Imagine what he'll be like with all that unburnt energy otherwise - I think it might be hell. Some guys HAVE to do sports. There is no choice. Is it even workable to stop?

Lastly, this is probably irrelevant as it seems he can improve his grades when motivated, but his eyesight been tested lately? I've heard that you should always rule that out. Kids may not even realize they can't see the board anymore. They just have a general feeling that they 'can't be bothered' concentrating. There was an educational campaign about it on NZ television. :D

Amelia

Beau said...

All - thank you these are really great comments.

Beau aka CG

Dumblond said...

If you get any ideas for making things work out for you, let me know. Right now, Bubba Dude is in baseball and Diva Princess in gymnastics. Neither one of them is at a uber-competitive level (yet) but they have no plans to give up their sports. We are fine with that as long as school is kept up with. So far so good...
I struggle with meals and bedtimes on game and practice nights. I hate the thought of fast food all those nights...sometimes its every weeknight. Gross.
Another problem we are having is wanting to get the kids' music lessons...I guess we will all just have to choose.
Good luck to you and the fam!

imhelendt said...

You already know how I feel about this one. :)

joz1234 said...

I think you can strike a balance between one day a week and 7. I was in athletics in school and that took up time every evening until 6:00pm...and then sometimes on weekends too for tournaments. I was also in band so that made me practice until 9:00pm one night a week. Oh, and there were friday nights too for football/volleyball games.

It's possible and I don't see this being any different than something like that.

I think time management is a great skill to develop--and if he can do his work and get good grades, then let him participate if he is having fun.

Sure, you are sacrificing family time, but it is not like he is out on the streets getting in trouble. He's doing something constructive with his mind and body.

My mother always said--instead of "No pass, no play"..it was "No B, No play."

Maybe institute a rule like they have in school...you will take him out for 3 weeks (until he has a B again) and if he doesn't, then he's out for 6 weeks).

He'll clean it up quick--and he won't like what his coach has to say to him about his laziness if he actually has to sit out.

I don't think it will happen more than once.

musicbutterfly said...

My parents required me to get all A-s or no music. (I was in a semi-professional choir and the after school drama club) This got results. I wish I had known then how difficult life could have been without them.

Kids think adults don't know anything, but they will listen to "big kids" relatively speaking. Whenever I am considered a "big kid," (more often than not) I take advantage and let the kids know that doing well in school is no bad thing.

As for practicing every day, if you think your kid could be one of the best, then he/she will need to train - a LOT. I had to practice piano every day just to keep up. Those who excel have to practice their craft like crazy.

Doing well in school did help prepare me for a world which isn't set up to pay you for your passion. Continuing to do what I loved while I was still in school enabled me to live my dreams. The only thing that would have made it all easier is if someone older than me, but not an "adult" had told me my parents weren't crazy.

Sheila said...

Here's my take.

When your son is older, what will ultimately matter is not swimming lessons or swim team, as beneficial as that may be. What will matter is that he has a strong relationship with you which grounded him in his identity, his faith, his integrity, and his character.

Swimming is fun, but it is not the main thing in life. The main thing is your character and what you will become. Swimming can play a role in teaching discipline, but what he really needs is to anchored in his family, and for that you need time to be a family--to eat dinner together, to play together, to walk together.

Seven days a week is just too much, even if he's Olympic material. The Olympics are not worth sacrificing your family over.

So you need to find balance. The thing that is most correlated with academic, relational, and emotional success in life is eating dinner as a family. If you have no time, that's a problem.

I hope that helps! I'm not trying to be harsh. I just hope it helps you make some decisions.

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