Story by Zoe Chen
Illustration by Isabelle Wong
From an early age, many children are encouraged to participate in as many extracurriculars as possible. Elementary-level kids sign up for soccer, softball, or baseball teams, take dance or gymnastic lessons, play the piano, or become members of scout troops ─ and often many of the above.
Extracurriculars tend to become more intense with time, as the same number of original players compete for a more limited number of slots on teams. Much greater chunks of the day are consumed, leading participants of activities to undergo a slow process of weeding and extraction throughout the years of late elementary and early middle school.
Far fewer extracurriculars remain by the time students enter high school. Still, students can find themselves committed to more activities than time allows, unable to complete everything required of them and constantly exhausted.
Seniors especially are tasked with juggling their high-stake college applications on top of classroom grades, GPA maintenance, clubs, sports, and other passions. Seniors can find themselves in positions where there is simply not enough time to accomplish all they wish to, with practices and meetings eating their way into allotted sleep, homework, and free time.
Overcommitments to extracurriculars can become less of an issue of not managing time well enough, but a problem of not having enough time to begin with. Situations such as these require the dropping of lower-ranking priorities in order to spare enough time for others.
High school sports are an assuredly time consuming activity, with frequent games and practices sometimes lasting upwards of two hours. Many seniors, unable to scrape together the time or energy to play, ultimately decide to drop a sport they have played in previous high school years.
Senior Lillian Sherman, who previously played volleyball for SPHS’s JV and varsity teams, explained her decision to quit.
“Volleyball takes up a lot of time,” Sherman said. “I don’t particularly want to play in college, so I wanted to focus my energy towards enjoying my senior year and also doing things that will help me in college.”
Kathy Tam, another senior, explained her decision to stop playing tennis, which she had previously played at the JV and varsity levels.
“I guess for me, it was just not having enough time to do my homework and college apps…last year I was getting home super late and I could barely finish all my homework, and this year’s really important to do well,” Tam said. “Unfortunately, tennis had to go.”
Another senior, who wished to remain anonymous, explained their decision to quit as a combination of numerous factors, from practice times conflicting with other extracurriculars, to the inability to miss practice, to the competitive environment of the team, semi-formulated by the coach, in which winning was prioritized over all else.
They also emphasized their dread at the thought of not qualifying for varsity and ending up the only senior on JV. The combination of these factors ultimately led to their decision to leave the team.
Quitting sports does not pose itself as an easy decision. For some seniors however, the pros of playing ─ the competitive aspect, the team, the desire to play ─ did not outweigh the heaving time commitment required. For them, quitting was the best decision they could make for themselves and their priorities.
“I do love my team and I love my coach…I’m super sad that I’m not playing tennis this year,” Tam said. “I definitely do want to play, I just don’t want to…not be as committed as other people.”
Tam said she would not choose to continue playing tennis if given the option of a less time consuming practice schedule, and explained her belief that everyone on the team should be as committed to the sport as possible.
“I don’t want other players to feel like one person’s getting special privileges,” Tam said. “And plus, like, we need to practice as much as we can for games and stuff, so…I don’t want to take someone else’s spot on the team and not be as committed, even though I want to be.”
Despite overcommitments being a common problem, there are no great solutions to be able to accomplish everything. Sports require much time and energy to be able to play at the competitive high school level, and less time committed to practice leads to a decrease in skill. Simply not practicing as much would not allow highly-skilled seniors to play as competitively, nor would it allow them to stand out and play to the best of their abilities. With colleges looking for students who can be exceedingly committed to the activities they choose to keep with, time spent dabbling is, by some standards, wasted time.
Seniors had no foolproof advice for juniors who might end up with the same problems next year. However, seniors did suggest waiting to see where the year leads and choosing to continue the commitments that personally matter the most, as well as weighing the timeliness and worth of the activity.
“Figure out if you really enjoy the sport and if it’s the best use of your time,” Sherman said. “Don’t feel like you have to do the sport because you always have or because of any outside pressure…It’s about you.”
Tam agreed, saying, “you shouldn’t feel like you have to quit, or that you have to continue. But just make the best decision for yourself.”