Should Student Athletes Have to Take Gym Class?

Some student athletes believe they would be better off not taking gym.


Kaylee Lyman, Guest Writer

The shot clock counts down, it is the last 5 seconds of the game and we are tied 40-40. My teammate passes the basketball to me as I sprint down the court towards the basket. I go up for a lay-up now with only 2 seconds left and score! BEEP.. the shot clock goes off ending the game, and the crowd is going wild. 

My whole team rushes onto the court and begins to hug me. Although I should be ecstatic and motivated about my game winning shot, instead my mind quickly turns to deal with the anxiety and stress over the numerous homework assignments that I need to get done tonight. Being both a three-sport athlete while also taking many honors and AP classes is most definitely— not easy. 

What if some of this stress could be reduced? In almost every public school physical education is mandatory in order to graduate from high school. Many student athletes get an extreme amount of exercise by playing a sport, making gym class unnecessary. Student athletes should have the opportunity to take a study hall instead of gym class reducing stress, preventing injuries, and improving both athletic and academic performance. 

School is tough. It is very common for student athletes to be the ones who care the most about school and strive to do good. These students already have the mindset to work hard and try their best in school so they carry those traits over into whatever sport they are playing. 

According to Grant Shoffstall from the Daily American, gym class is a class that educational professionals consider to be substantially “important” which allows for physical “exercise” and “activity.”

 Yes, I understand that gym class is an opportunity for some of my classmates to get their exercise in for the day, but what I do not understand is the need for athletes, like me, to take this unnecessary class. We have already developed these extremely important skills since the average student athletes practice up to 6 days a week usually for about two to three hours; yet when we do not have practice we have games that we have been preparing for.

 I know this class is needed to graduate, but all the efforts put into growing as a player, along with strength training, should count towards a student’s gym requirements. 

As much as I care about how my basketball team is going to play in our next game, the pressure of school still consumes my every thought. The rise of stress and anxiety in many student athletes is extremely common; however, the replacement of a study hall instead of gym class will benefit the student immensely.

 Having a study hall will allow for athletes to get homework or an assignment done since they may have little to no time after school.

 Nicole Esempio, a three sport junior varsity athlete who takes her academics very seriously, says, “it is understandable why students who don’t normally exercise are required to take gym classes, however for busy student athletes our time could be better spent.”

 This precious “time” could be spent working hard and preparing for a big exam just like we do for a game against our rival. This year I have a fifth period study hall every day and it is beneficial since it reduces my anxiety knowing I have time to do my assignment even though I have an away game that night.

 Nicole Esempio argues that “providing us with a study hall would reduce stress and allow us more time to be ourselves.” 

The 48-minute study hall is enough time to take one assignment off an athlete’s plate —allowing them to feel stress free and happy— benefiting them in the long run. Reducing stress by providing a study hall will just be the start of a support system to improve the mental health of student athletes. 

Injuries are something that we, very committed athletes, live in fear of: especially those who have an incredible passion for the sport or sports they may play. Gym class is a place where the risk is extremely high for a student to get injured. Kids are messing around and not being careful with their actions.

 Nate Homans, an alumni of the Ludlow boys volleyball team, tore his ACL during gym class his junior year. This horrible injury caused him to miss his junior year volleyball season which was a disappointment. To top it off his senior year season was stolen by Covid which made everything worse. 

“I could have played at least three years if I did not hurt myself in gym class. It just isn’t worth the risk,” Homans said.

A statistic taken a little over 14 years ago says “injuries in gym class since 1997-2007 had risen 150% nationwide” (Hornish). 

Now imagine how much it has increased since then, due to new games, more competitiveness, and less precautions. Usually in my gym class we play an assortment of games and even different sports. There are people in my class who try hard and give it their all when just playing a flag football game; this can result in them or their classmates getting hurt. Don’t get me wrong, it makes it more fun when kids actually participate in the games we play in gym class, but there is constantly the risk of an injury floating about in our heads. 

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission ran a survey to see how many P.E-related injuries occured in the emergency room in 2007.

 They found that “there were roughly 60,000 reports” of students who got injured during gym class, and that is not counting kids who got injured without going to the emergency room.

 It makes sense that the students that are experiencing these injuries are probably athletes because most athletes are the ones in class who participate and work hard during gym just like they do with their academics and in a game. 

I have heard an assortment of different stories about athletes— just like me— who have had to sit on the sidelines while their teammates fight for a win. It does not matter whether the athlete has to sit out of a championship game or regular season game; it hurts just as much either way. Nobody wants to be the kid on the bench of a championship game because they got hurt in gym class. 

Athletes have some of the best mindsets and want to be out on the court or field with their team giving it 100%. Students can still get a non-gym related injury, but by not making P.E a mandatory class it will lessen the risk of injuries for student athletes all over the country. 

The burden of stress that is put on student athletes is unimaginable, but as some of it is alleviated the minds of the athletes will clear up. This will result in a positive incline in both academic and athletic performance of student athletes. 

Hornish says, Without the need to try to fit gym class into an already tightly packed schedule it could lead to “a boost in grades” and “overall happier and less stressed out students.” 

Most student athletes want to go onto college, and so then they work to fit in high level courses needed to achieve their goals in the future. Gym class is like a gnat, it’s annoying and basically useless, but once the gnat goes away you feel an instant relief and can continue what you’re doing. Just like gym class, if there was no need to take gym class it would be much easier for student athletes to fit more challenging courses and get a study to reduce stress.

 A much happier athlete results in a better worth ethic on and off the court. Academics will rise since athletes would have time in their directed learning time to do school work and study more, benefiting their grades. With the study hall students could complete homework that they would have had to wait late at night after their game to do; now they can go to bed earlier and get more rest. The extra hour or so of sleep can improve how much effort they put into school and their practice or game the next day.

 Also the homework and assignments I complete at 10 or 11 at night after a game are not always done to my fullest potential. Friday night games are personally my favorites because I do not usually have any work that is due that night. I already go into the game less tense and anxious and can actually put all my energy and thoughts into the game. Implementing no gym class requirement and receiving the credits from playing a high school sport will make more week day games feel like Friday games. There is no wrong in improving academic and athletic achievements of student athletes by giving them the credits they need for gym class when they already get the exercise provided in P.E class. 

Although I feel that gym class is a waste of time to student athletes, gym teachers and parents believe that gym class should be a mandatory class. Many parents of children that do not participate in high school sports believe it is an unfair advantage for their kids. They believe it is too much of a privilege since it would still be mandatory for their children to take gym class for the reason that they do not get the exercise student athletes get from playing a sport.

 It really is not an advantage though since you get no credit for a study and both students would get the same credits for gym class if they both actively participate. The students that do not play a sport have more time to get their work done and may not get the exercise athletes do; hence why they should still be required to take gym class still.

 Mrs. Gauvin, a physical education teacher at Ludlow High School,argues that “in practice you are repeating the same movement, PE introduces you to a wide range of activities that you can continue after graduation and in turn can make you a more well rounded athlete.”

Although this seems like an arguable statement, at my basketball practice, for example, my coach incorporates the growth of leadership, development of character, and enforcement of accountability. Even repetitiveness enhances the improvement of an athlete, while the student has an array of activities that they can participate in within their sport and at school. 

Mrs. Nacsin, another awesome gym teacher at Ludlow High School, says that, “The anxiety and stress levels in student athletes is growing and PE allows students to enjoy being active without the added pressure.”

 Pressure is substantially a large issue within the sport’s community. Many athletes feel a weight on their shoulders from parents or coaches about how they need to perform in a specific way. Yes, in gym class there really is no pressure whether you play well or not, but a reasonable amount of the stress occurring in student athletes sparks from academics. Deeming gym class unnecessary, for student athletes, in schools will prevent the stress levels to rise and hopefully anxiety would decrease.

 As for those students who need to take gym, it can help them improve their mental health while athletes have the resources to do so from coaches and other activities.

As I sit home the night after my unbelievable win, I ponder about how I wish I could have enjoyed that moment better. 

While I was finishing my AP Bio lab, that night, I was coming up with ways to improve my stress levels, and overall become a much more content student and athlete. After completing my assignment late at night I remembered that I had to get my gym clothes together, and that’s when it hit me. 

Why do I have to take gym class, when I get an extreme amount of exercise during all three seasons of athletics?

 I proceeded to do some research; I found that it is not easy to push for no gym class, but it is possible and beneficial. This generation can be the change in athletics and academics of generations to come. Mental health of students has decreased drastically, increasing depression and anxiety in teens all over the world. We need to help student athletes feel themselves again, by pushing for receiving credits for gym class when playing on a high school sports team. 

A rise in academics will occur while the performance of student athletes will grow as the years go by. Just this small change can make a drastic difference in the way high school athletes compete, perform, and excel.

 Do you want to help create a new breed of athletes and scholars? Your answer should be yes; be the change you want to see.