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The physical, emotional and literal cost of activities By Erin Foley

Every year, students are becoming more involved in sports and school activities. The increase in involvement is due to a number of reasons, whether it be college, social status or for fun. The survey conducted by The Rebellion regarding activities found that 100% of student respondents did a WHS sport and 79% of responses said they did an activity within WHS. Meanwhile, another 82% of student respondents said they do activities outside of school.

At Walpole High School, a sport costs $225 per student. If students play three sports, then they will get a discounted price of $50 for that third sport; however, families must deliver the check in person instead of paying online. The individual cap for sports is $500 and the family cap is $1,100. The student activity fee is $60 per student, while it can be accommodated if a student or student’s family requires financial help. While the base cost of activities and sports is not unreasonable, the price can be overwhelming when including the cost of team bonding, uniforms, merchandise, equipment and more. Certain sports and activities require more outside spending than others, but each activity comes with its own cost aside from school. For example, a band instrument alone can cost up tens of thousands of dollars. Students can spend thousands or more per year on activities and sports.

WHS is a college prep school, meaning they aim to prepare students to continue their education in a college or university. Colleges have recently been looking at more than test scores on applications, as they are looking at a students activity list as well. This change in the application process can positively and negatively impact students. While it is important to consider a student’s character through their involvement in activities, colleges are expecting much more than an average high schooler is capable of. Students are told that without an immense amount of activities on their application, their chances at scholarships and admissions are limited. While this holistic approach is logical for understanding a student’s character, it counteracts its benefits by forcing students to create a false image.

“I think [colleges] would even tell you you're better off doing a few activities you're good at than doing 20 different ones,” Stephen Imbusch, WHS principal, said.

Students are forgetting to do what makes them happy and are rather focusing on what looks best on paper. Colleges are creating too much pressure on students to succeed in both academics and sports. The pressure coming from colleges causes students to overpack their schedules and participate in too many activities.

Sports and activities within WHS can require a lot of time after school. The average varsity sport practice lasts about two to three hours. Certain activities can require from an hour after school, to an entire weekend worth of commitment. Students sign up for every sport and activity they do, so they should be aware of the time commitment that’s required. Most clubs will have meetings once or twice a week, whereas some meet almost every day for practice. On top of extensive school work, students must learn to manage their time if they decide to do sports and activities. School work can take hours to complete, and some students have trouble completing all their school work with their additional activities and sports before midnight. If a student is overworking themselves with their activities, many will argue that they choose that lifestyle. However, a student being aware and a student knowing their limit is two different things. Students choose to pack their schedules without considering to leave time for their mental health. The pressure from colleges, family and community to be an active member of WHS can cause a student to overschedule their days.

Sports and activities have not only a physical, but also an emotional toll on students. An activity comes with additional responsibility along with school work, and for many students, it is both beneficial and detrimental to participate in sports and activities. On a smaller scale, students who are involved in sports or activities will not put their emotional and physical health as a priority. Sleep deprivation, lack of nutrients and stress can all damage students, causing them to underperform in the activities or sports they work so hard to succeed in. The excessive hours spent on a sport or activity can impair students due to the lack of focus on eating, sleeping and taking time for mental health.

“Overall, I’d say I don’t have any time for myself. I feel like I’m pretty good at managing my time, but my activities combined with school work make it nearly impossible to do anything, even on the weekends. When I’m not in school, I’m at dance or work or doing homework,” senior Zoya Malik said.

Some benefits for students include a sense of community, new experiences, friendships and life skills. However, many students who participate in a variety of activities and sports are overwhelmed with their daily life. Family is often valued in the Walpole community, yet due to activities and sports, students barely have time for their family. High school has a competitive nature causing students to fill their schedules with too many activities and sports. James Connolly, a special education department teacher, works with many overexerted students.

“There’s a small percentage of kids that can do it all, yet a lot of kids still compare themselves to this small percentage,” Connolly said.

Comparison is causing students to over stress about their activities by trying to do the most—not necessarily the best for their mental health. Students are becoming so overwhelmed that sports and activities are losing their joy. While students become less passionate about their activities, they nonetheless provide a positive outlet for teenagers. Despite being overworked, many students agree they would not give anything up. It is essential for students to find a balance between being involved in the community and keeping themselves happy.

“I feel like my activities are a way for me to express myself and stay active,” senior Emme Devito said.

Students who overexert themselves in their schedule also may face the consequences of overexerting themselves physically. Participating in sports does lead to a more active lifestyle; however, if students do not care for their bodies, the sheer number of hours spent exercising can lead to life long injuries. After being injured, students also may fear missing time in their sport or activity after working hard for so long, and because of this, will force themselves to participate before they are fully healed. In their young age, students who suffer more serious injuries, such as concussions, can severely be stunted mentally or physically for the rest of their lives. Constantly, players will get some sort of concussion or injury and decide winning is more important than healing. This method is unhealthy and damaging to one’s body. Society needs to stop encouraging the unspoken rule to play through the pain. Often players feel unnecessary pressure to ignore injuries because they do not want to either let their team down or become perceived as weak. The perception that sitting out for an injury makes someone weak is completely false and needs to be changed. Understandably, players have invested so much time into a sport that sitting out is too difficult and unrealistic. However, serious injuries can last a lifetime and cannot be ignored. In order for players to perform to their best ability, their body and health needs to be in good condition instead of slowly deteriorating. Students should be invested in their sports and activities, yet not to the extent where they ignore serious injuries.

Students who are a part of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) program often find it difficult but enjoyable to participate in WHS activities. One way for students to get home from school sports and activities is the 5 p.m. Norwood late bus. If a sport or activity goes later than 5 p.m., then students need to find their own transportation home. Students find that the late bus is extremely helpful and has allowed them to get more involved in WHS. Despite the accommodations made, some students feel it can be difficult to be so committed to an activity, yet also get home for dinner. Sara Mendes is a junior at WHS who participates in Dance Company, Students for Equality, Marine Conservation Club and is a part of the METCO program.

“I’m doing more stuff in general within the school, which is good because I'm not just sitting at home and not socializing or exercising but then again, I'm getting home really late and sometimes just don’t have time to do homework,” Mendes said.

METCO students are not the only ones making an extreme commitment to the WHS extracurricular and sports program. Many students living in Walpole still struggle managing their time while also committing to a sport or activity. Students should be encouraged to commit to activities and sports they love; however, managing time is an essential skill to commitment.

Activities and sports require a lot from students including their mental and physical health, time, commitment and money. As students consider joining a club or playing a sport, they should be aware of what they can do before pushing themselves too much. Often kids will do too much to stack a resume or impress their peers; however, this method is unhealthy and needs to be corrected. Students should be active members in the WHS community as much as they can while also allowing time for themselves.