Student Athletes: Learning Skills for Life

As the Athletic Director at Portsmouth Christian Academy, it is no secret that I believe Athletics to be an important part of a student’s experience. While I recognize that not every student will love sports like I do, I believe strongly that participation in sports can have benefits beyond filling an academic requirement or keeping a student busy after school. Although there are many benefits to participating in athletics, I believe the top three benefits for athletes are skills in discipline, a healthy lifestyle, and teamwork.

1. Athletics teach discipline.

To succeed in any sport, students must be committed to working hard towards continual improvement. The skills necessary for success in any sport don’t just come overnight. To develop these skills, athletes must learn the discipline of committing to show up at practice every day. They must be disciplined in practicing on weekends and in their spare time. They must be disciplined to give their best every practice, even when they don’t feel like it. They must be disciplined enough to make healthy decisions and manage their time. Success requires a significant investment, and I’m always impressed by the discipline of our athletes and their ability to juggle academic, social, and athletic responsibilities while being high-achieving members of their team.

2. Athletics encourage a healthy lifestyle.

This might be the most obvious benefit of participation in sports. Staying active keeps athletes physically fit. But, in addition to physical fitness, student athletes quickly learn that healthy choices related to things like diet and sleep schedules have an influence on performance. Additionally, athletes quickly learn how to prioritize their schoolwork, schedule, and family commitments, a skill that is proven to reduce stress and increase work-life balance. Participation in sports encourages student athletes to make healthy decisions and to develop healthy habits both on and off the field. This skill is part of the biblical call to be good stewards of our bodies, as demonstrated in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

3. Athletics establish lifelong foundations for teamwork.

The ability to work as a team is a critical skill. Vince Lombardi, iconic football figure, famously said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Teamwork is paramount on the football field and basketball court, and also in education and careers. Athletes learn the importance of being committed to the group effort – a practice that will benefit them throughout their lives. Athletes learn that their hard work benefits not only themselves, but also the rest of the team. They also learn that each member of the team must be all-in. If one teammate is not committed, the group effort will suffer. I’m the most proud of my athletes when I watch them working together as a team – giving selflessly, encouraging each other, and demonstrating Christ-like love as they work towards a common goal. It reminds me of how we, as the body of Christ, are called to work together for His kingdom (Romans 12:4-8).

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;  if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

The athletic field provides an environment where athletes must choose to respond to stress, controversy, authority, and competition with grace. The field can be a place where a student’s character is tested, and a place where the light of Christ shines. The field can be a place where peer pressure is strong and leaders emerge. I fully believe that sports can bring out the best in an athlete, and properly nurtured, the skills mentioned above can develop character in a way that is truly Christ-honoring.

Derek Summers is the Athletic Director at Portsmouth Christian Academy. He coaches Boys Varsity Basketball and Girls Varsity Soccer at PCA, and volunteers coaching youth sports in his town. He graduated with a BS in Sports Management with minors in Business, Bible, and Coaching. When he’s not coaching, Derek enjoys watching athletics at all levels.

Ranked “#1 Private K-12 School in New Hampshire” by Niche 2019 Best Schools, Portsmouth Christian Academy has been inspiring students on the seacoast to maximize their potential for forty years. PCA provides a nurturing educational environment that emphasizes Christ-centered community, outstanding academics, differentiated learning, and exceptional character. Located just minutes northwest of Portsmouth, NH on a fifty-acre riverfront campus, PCA is a dually accredited, independent, college-preparatory day school where young people from preschool to Grade 12 are challenged to thrive academically and grow as servant-leaders prepared to impact the world for good. For more information, visit

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