Why I Am Fully Invested in Student Athletes

When I am not in the classroom teaching, I spend the majority of my free time coaching. From 6:00 AM training sessions, league games, weekend overnight college showcase tournaments, team bonding weekends in Big Bear, and offseason tournaments and trainings, I am constantly with my student athletes. I often get asked why I spend so much time (and money) on these kids with little to no compensation. My answer is simple, these kids deserve it, and I am fully invested in them, their futures and the positive impacts of being a student athlete.

Growing up myself as a student athlete in a large public school, I took for granted my access to fields, training facilities, locker rooms, transportation, uniforms and spirit gear. I never once had to ask how we were going to get to our game, where we were going to practice or what uniforms we were going to wear. This is not the case for my student athletes. As a charter school, we have a very limited budget for athletics and no facilities to train on. This means doing whatever it takes to make it work for our student athletes, from various fundraising efforts to 6:00 AM training sessions at the nearby park.

Whenever I have a slight doubt in what we are doing, all of the time, money and effort we are putting into these athletes, I reflect on the quote from basketball coach Tim Notke, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” We have to work harder in order to compete with the large public schools we play against. But in the end, the hard work is worth it and pays off both on the field and in the classroom.

I truly believe that being a student athlete is so incredibly beneficial, and all high school students should experience it. The lessons learned and the notion of being part of something greater than yourself is invaluable.

The term student athlete is exactly how it reads, student before athlete. Student athletes are held to high expectations both in the classroom and on the field.

Academics are a huge component of being a student athlete. Our athletes are only eligible to play if they are passing all of their classes. We conduct grade checks the morning before each game to determine who is eligible to play and to monitor how they are doing in their classes. In order to support our athletes in the classroom, we hold study halls to keep athletes on top of their work. Our goal is not only to help them be successful in high school but to also set them up for success in college so they can be eligible to play at the next level.

Not only do we expect our athletes to keep up their grades, but we also expect them to be leaders and exemplar students in the classroom. Being a student athlete gives students an additional opportunity to be a leader and lead their peers by example. On the field, we expect the highest level of respect and sportsmanship, and it is no different in the classroom.

Being part of a team is an invaluable experience. Teamwork, camaraderie, and friendships gained from this experience are some that will last beyond high school. Our team is like a family, going through the good times and bad together. Being part of a team is something greater than just yourself. You have to think of the team as a unit and how one’s actions can impact the whole.

I truly believe that being a student athlete has given my students additional skills and experiences to be successful in life. I am fully invested in my student athletes and their futures. Would you do whatever it takes for the success of your students?

What do you think?

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Chelsea Culbert

Chelsea Culbert

Chelsea Culbert is a proud product of New York public schools where she graduated with her International Baccalaureate diploma. She went off to attain her B.A. in Chemistry with concentrations in Public Health and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies at NYU. While at NYU, she started the chapter of “Strive for College,” a non-profit organization that connects college students as mentors to assist high schoolers throughout the college application and financial aid processes. Immediately after graduation, Chelsea pursued her teaching career with Teach for America Los Angeles. While teaching, Chelsea completed her Master’s degree in Urban Education at Loyola Marymount University. Chelsea is currently teaching at her Teach for America placement school in Lincoln Heights where she serves as Department Instructional Lead, Instructional Leadership Team member, and coaches Varsity soccer.

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