What Happens on the Court Doesn’t Stay on the Court


Courtesy of Anand Saluja

It is a cool, mostly sunny August morning and Anand Saluja, an incoming senior and tennis phenom from Brookfield Academy, is warming up for what may be one of the most important matches of his tennis career. Anand’s opponent, seeded to defeat him, comes onto the court relaxed and confident. Tennis coaches from many different schools around the nation sit in the bleachers scouting him out.  Everything seems to be culminating in this match, one that Saluja will later describe as feeling like “your whole life is hanging by a thread.”

After all of the stressful anticipation of the match, Anand soundly defeats his opponent. Shortly after the tournament, he gets ‘the call’ from Columbia’s head tennis coach, offering him a spot on their team.

However pivotal this one match may have been, his spot on Columbia’s team is a feat years in the making. Months later, he attributes his success last August to the extensive training he committed to in an effort to regain lost ground in stats and skill he sacrificed in the name of maintaining stellar academic performance during the previous school year. This back and forth balance between academics and athletics, and the commonly made sacrifices of one for the other are just a part of life for Anand and those like him who excel both in school and in sport; for such is the way of student athletes.

But although high level athletics may sometimes clash with academics, research done and published by the Inside Out Initiative shows a direct relationship between student participation in school sports and their academic success. This research also shows an inverse relationship between athletic participation and the amount of days missed. That means, statistically, a student who participates in school athletics is more likely to perform better academically and miss fewer days of school. According to Field Hockey Coach and English teacher Katie Schlosser, the reasoning behind this is clear: Students who participate in athletics are forced to learn time management. Furthermore, she postulates that after school sports motivate students to show up more consistently for school, not necessarily for the joy of sitting in a desk for eight hours, but rather to practice and compete with their team after classes.

It gets better too. Time management skills and motivation are not the only benefits that school sports have on one’s academic performance. Research publicized by the Scientific American strongly supports anecdotal evidence that any kind of exercise, related to school athletics or not, can be beneficial to one’s mental health and mood. When we exercise, our brains release neurotransmitters that are known to relieve stress and can even be beneficial in treating the brain chemistry aspect of depression. Given the research that suggests more teenagers today struggle with such stresses at a significantly higher rate than in the past, the importance of school sports to a student’s academic success cannot be overstated.  

In Anand’s case, he credits tennis as a source of stress relief saying “It’s nice to have somewhere where you can kinda [sic] leave that world and be somewhere else”.