Education and elite sport - How can parents successfully manage it?

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If your child is taking sport seriously at a young age, deprioritising their education may no longer be the smartest approach.

Striking a balance between school and sport is not easy. It starts with finding the right school, with the right teachers, and organising the daily commute between your child’s practice ground and their school premises. But what if your child struggles to keep up? What if they are an aspiring Olympic or elite athlete who trains every day, competes midweek, and travels internationally?

Tradition says they cannot pursue a career in elite sports and remain in education at the same time. To reach the top, academic qualifications must be sacrificed. Some still argue this today, despite research showing that a balanced approach can lead to better performance, better mental health, and an easier transition into ‘normal life’ after retirement.

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At the moment, many families just about pull through. Parents and children wake up earlier, sacrifice quality time with each other, simply because there’s no other choice. As a former player myself, I respect this approach. Sometimes sacrifices do have to be made. But stress levels will rise. As a teenager, I vividly remember the guilt that crept in when I saw the impact my hectic schedule was having on my family.

Young athletes, especially in sports such as tennis and golf, may also find themselves travelling overseas. At this point they will need to be taken out of school. This causes significant disruption and starts the slippery slope of missing valuable lessons, a decline in the relationship with the school itself, and, in some cases, fines.

But there might be a solution.

During the pandemic, the world kept going thanks to the use of smart digital tools. Many of us now work from home. Many of us study online. Many of our children are learning from home, too. Studying online whilst managing an athletic career hasn’t been discussed much in the U.K. but it’s a widely-adopted approach in countries like the USA. The reality is that learning online, despite its perceived drawbacks, can offer families some much-needed flexibility.

In the last few years, there has been a significant rise in the number of online schools operating in the UK. Some are very basic. Some take a more thorough approach. Until now, the only online school that specialises in educating young athletes is Minerva’s Virtual Academy (click here to view). The school has been developed around 4 key ‘pillars’ that provide a holistic learning and developmental experience for sporting children.


Here’s why it could be a great option:

Collaborative Learning:

No more missing out on lessons and learning with others - the school’s online classes are spread throughout the week and are less frequent than at traditional school, allowing young athletes to fit lessons around their own schedule.

Virtual Learning Platform:

A smart Virtual Learning Platform, accessible anywhere in the world, gives athletes the flexibility to learn at their own pace outside class. Lessons can be rewatched if need be and students can also take quizzes and complete assignments that add towards their grades.

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1-to-1 Mentoring Programme:

Unlike other schools, both physical or online, Minerva provides each athlete with a specialist mentor who can help them navigate the highs and lows in their sporting life, provide guidance, and ensure they are thriving academically. Reports are written to parents every 2 weeks for a thorough overview of the child's progress.

Community:

Retaining an ‘identity’ other than that as an ‘athlete’ is vital to ensure wellbeing in sport. Minerva’s community programme includes weekly assemblies, wellbeing sessions, and co-curricular learning projects so students can get involved in good causes, and they can also attend after school clubs, like Art and Film-making.

Becoming a professional athlete is a dream for many and education should never be a compromise to get there.

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Find out more by visiting www.sport.minervavirtual.com/

Written by Fabian Spiess; former professional and semi-professional football player, MSc in Sports Business Management, Lvl 3 Talented Athlete Lifestyle Support and current Elite Athlete Education Officer at Minerva

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