The AP Athlete Struggles to Maintain Balance


Student-athletes. This means that they are students first and athletes second. With the pride and spirit of the school resting on their performance, the student-athletes are not only under the stress of athletics as well as academics.

Since the student-athlete has to go to practice for so many hours a day, one would think that they take easier classes, so that way they aren’t risking their chance to play.

However, not all student-athletes decide to take “easy” classes.

Advanced placement or honors classes are considered to be the hardest curriculum in high school.  These classes are geared for college preparation and to help the students have an easier adjustment for college courses.

The student-athletes that take these classes raise the question: where do you find the time to not only practice daily but also keep your grades up? When students are not playing sports, is their time consumed with AP/honors homework?

Take for example junior Nicole Rafay, who is the team captain on the varsity volleyball team, was faced with the possibility of missing games this season for failing AP US History.

On average, Rafay had 10 hours of practice and about 11 hours of homework per week along with 30 minutes of studying a day. In her free time, if she even has any, she said it is spent staying in shape for volleyball.

Rafay later went on to say that her coach doesn’t really show sympathy for failing an AP class.

Why is that?

“A grade’s a grade,” said former women’s soccer head coach and now the sophomore Dean William Hamilton. During Hamilton’s time at Spring Valley, he was not only the coach of the women’s varsity soccer team, but he was also an honors government and psychology teacher.

According to Hamilton, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA) states that student-athletes need to have the grades and the GPA requirement in order to play.

“It depends on the student-athlete if they are willing to take a risk and go into AP/Honors classes,” said Hamilton. “Elite athletes (athletes that have the chance to play either NCAA Division I or Division II sports) can be very selective when choosing classes to help their GPA, and maintain academic eligibility.” Usually the counselor will put them in “easier” classes, Hamilton later stated.

In order for a student-athlete to get either recruited or gain an athletic scholarship, they must meet the schools admissions requirements first.

For the in-state four year universities (University of Nevada, Reno and University of Nevada, Las Vegas), they both have the same admissions requirements. Needing a 3.0 weighted GPA or an ACT composite score of 22 or SAT critical reading and math score of 1040, according to the school’s websites.

However, these particular universities extra curriculars activities are not required or helped for admission.

The University of Oregon for example states on the school’s website, “When making an admission decision we consider the following criteria (…) (E)xtracurricular activities including community service and the need to work to assist your family.”

Though the in-state universities don’t require extracurricular activities for admission, many scholarships require that you do some sort of activity.

So, if the student-athlete cannot obtain athletic scholarship, money of will be a factor. Along with having to have a high weighted GPA and go to practice daily, this adds more stress to the student-athletes.

Senior Morgan Mavirdis says that her stress level (on a scale of one to 10) is easily a 10.

Mavirdis who is not only in four AP classes and one honors class, but also she is a three sport athlete. She participates in basketball and track while also competing in varsity cross country.  She says that aside for having 12 hours of practice per week, she also has four to six hours of homework per day.

Although Mavirdis is very busy, she still finds success in the classroom by having a 3.4 (unweighted GPA), and is seeking to graduate with the Advanced Honors Diploma.

According to Mavirdis, the key to maintaining success on and off the playing field is to have balance.

Fellow senior and varsity soccer player Allison Warner agrees with Mavirdis with having to have balance in order to maintain success.

“Keep everything organized,” said Warner. “Your priorities have to be straight with school, sports, work, and you have to make sure that you get done what needs to get done.”

Warner played varsity soccer  this year and is currently taking an AP class and two other honors classes with a 3.0 (weighted) GPA. As of right now, she works and said that her stress level on a good day is a seven. However, it tends to get up to a nine.

So, now the question is what are the student-athletes stressed about? Is it the fact that deadlines will be missed, or that they won’t have time for themselves?

“It varies,” said senior cross country runner, track athlete and scholar athlete Kristina White.  “It depends on the work and sports. Sports take the stress away.”

White is currently in one AP class and three honors classes and currently has an unweighted 3.83 GPA. She went on to say that she, on average, has 18 hours of homework per week, and 10-12 hours of practice per week (in season).

White says that with her motivation level comes from wanting to be a successful student and go to college.

AP Composition and Literature teacher Amy DeVaul has noticed the motivation level of the athletes vary from the advanced to regular classes.

“Sports is a way for kids who don’t like school to keep them in school,” said DeVaul. “I notice a difference in my regular classes than AP. In AP classes everyone’s motivated. In my regular class, it keeps the athletes motivated in order to keep their grades and keep playing.”

The most common attribute displayed about what makes the AP athlete successful is  balance. AP student-athlete Warner and even AP teacher DeVaul stated that balance and time management are the ultimate key to success when playing varsity sports and maintaining a high weighted GPA.