Inside the Classroom

Flexible Learning Solutions for Student Athletes

Many students who participate in competitive sports struggle to find a balance between athletics and academics. With the educational technology available today, districts and schools across the nation are able to do more to help student athletes find that balance by giving them options that fit into their busy schedules. One way schools are challenging students academically and allowing them to pursue their athletic dreams is by offering flexible learning solutions for student athletes. Here, we’ll explore the correlation between participation in sports and academics, and share a video about how one school is using online courses to help student athletes get the most out of their education.

More than 30 years ago, National Student Athlete Day was established on April 6th to honor the outstanding achievements of student athletes in high school and college. Each year, schools across the nation celebrate the day by recognizing the accomplishments of millions of student athletes who give back to their community through service projects and excel both in the classroom and out on the playing field.

While research on the correlation between exercise and academics is still growing, numerous studies and experts have said that exercise and physical activity are just as good for your mental sharpness as they are for your heart health. One study suggests that the more students exercise, the more their academic performance will improve, particularly for girls. Another study analyzed the performance of athletes and non-athletes and found lower dropout rates for student athletes. The authors suggest that “the lessons learned in athletics, combined with the knowledge that they must do well in school to participate, improves students’ persistence and chances for success.”

In addition to improved mental and physical health, competing in sports as a student offers many other benefits as well:

  • Sense of community: By representing their school, community, and even country as part of a team, students can experience a feeling of community and sense of pride in where they live and go to school.
  • Skill development: Sports require students to practice, concentrate, and cooperate. They must learn to work with a team, take responsibility, and keep going when the going gets tough.
  • High-quality relationships: Student athletes typically build close friendships with their teammates, learn from positive mentors, and may even become positive mentors to younger students.

Participation in school sports can also teach student athletes how to manage their time. However, this doesn’t always come easily, and many student athletes struggle to find the perfect balance. But when schools like the United States Performance Academy (USPA) offer flexible learning solutions for student athletes, they’re able to challenge those students academically in a way that fits their busy schedules.

US Performance Academy was initially opened as a small sailing school and eventually grew to encompass numerous sports across the board. With students all over the country, USPA is designed for high-performance athletes in middle and high school who need challenging curriculum, flexibility, and support for their unique schedules.

Peter Smith, president of the US Performance Academy says, “For us, it’s really, really important to have a group of kids that mix well and understand the value in our network of athletes as well as the importance of doing well in school, and not to have a group that feels that school and sport are separate, but instead integrated. Because I think both of them provide our kids with a really unique level and opportunity to learn.”

In our video below, you’ll hear how the USPA model provides flexible learning solutions for student athletes. And you’ll see how USPA students are using online curriculum to get the most out of their education while also competing in sports such as ice hockey and figure skating.


And because the online curriculum USPA uses is approved for student athletes by the NCAA®, students are able to work toward their athletic career while receiving a rigorous, college-preparatory learning experience. If you’re thinking about implementing online courses to offer your student athletes more flexibility, here are three things to know about the NCAA and online learning. You can also learn more at


Bernstein, L. (2010, May 25). A growing body of evidence links exercise and mental acuity. Washington Post. Retrieved from

What is National Student-Athlete Day? Institute for Sport and Social Justice. Retrieved from

Chen, G. (2017, June 12). 10 reasons why high school sports benefit students. Public School Review. Retrieved from

Exercise ‘boosts academic performance’ of teenagers. (2013, Oct. 22). British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved from

High school athletics. Athnet. Retrieved from

Krings, M. (2014, Jan. 24). Study shows high school athletes perform better in school, persist to graduation more than non-athletes. The University of Kansas. Retrieved from

National student-athlete day. Retrieved from

About the Author


Ashleigh Lutz

Ashleigh graduated from Arizona State University with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Women and Gender Studies. She spent over three years in higher education developing resources and helping students succeed in online courses. During her tenure at Edgenuity, Ashleigh was eager to support Where Learning Clicks and the team’s commitment to helping teachers and students meet important goals and explore their passions. In addition to writing, a few of Ashleigh’s favorite things include rock climbing, chocolate, and cats.