Student athletes’ schedules hindered by late school start time


art by Joy Park

Nikol Slatinska

With the hope of allowing students to get more sleep as one of the main motivating factors, CPS administrators implemented a new school start time in 2014. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that not getting enough sleep results in multiple health risks, such as being overweight and a higher likelihood of drug use, as well as lower academic performance.
For students involved in after-school activities such as sports, however, the benefits of a later school start time are practically cancelled out thanks to the adjoining late release time. Junior cross country runner Caroline Stevens certainly feels the strain on her schedule from having school start at 8:55 a.m. and end at 4:05 p.m.
Having a late start is definitely hard sometimes,” Stevens said. “I usually get home around 7 p.m., so every night is a late night by the time I finish my homework. It’s nice being able to wake up a little later, but it’s tough finding motivation to do schoolwork when you’re tired and it’s already late.”
Contrary to Stevens’ opinion, senior baseball player Jack Widhalm is in favor of the late start time. He likes being able to do homework in the morning without having to get up too early.
“Late starts affects my schedule usually in a good way because we still get out at the same time, but start later,” Widhalm said. “It also allows sports teams to get their practice in the morning so they don’t have to stay until 7 p.m. And extra sleep is always nice as well.”
Like Widhalm, boys’ soccer coach Scott Wittenborn doesn’t see a huge effect of the start time on his athletes. He said, if anything, it allows them to get some extra sleep the mornings after long road trips. From an academic sense, however, he thinks athletes miss too much class time.
“I see many athletes, of all sports, that miss their fourth hour class two to three times in a week,” Wittenborn said. “The fact that so many teams also are forced to travel great distances for games due to Columbia’s location in between Kansas City and St. Louis makes this time missed even greater. On top of this, we even have many sports that miss class time for home games because many games start at 5 p.m. and most sports like roughly an hour of warm-up before a game.”
There have been a few athletes who struggled so much academically that they were ultimately unable to participate in soccer, Wittenborn said. He also frequently hears from his players about the hassle of having to put in extra time and energy to keep up with schoolwork after weeks with multiple road games, and said this problem is most common among student-athletes who have math classes during fourth hour.
Widhalm may have adapted well to the late start time in terms of academics, but he said starting and ending school earlier would be more beneficial when thinking about it from an athletic standpoint. If the baseball team could begin and end daily practices an hour earlier, Widhalm would get home earlier and have more evening time for homework. He acknowledges that he would have to wake up earlier but says he would be willing to do that.
“For games, we usually get out of fourth block and then if we have to travel we get out earlier,” Widhalm said. “If school started earlier, it would help us out a lot by not missing fourth block and having to get caught up on classwork and homework.”
One thing that makes Stevens’ life a bit easier is having early morning cross country practices every Tuesday and Thursday as opposed to afternoon practices. She enjoys the cooler weather and has more energy thanks to not having been at school all day. Despite that, she finds it difficult to maintain focus the rest of the school day.
Although the late start time hinders Stevens’ schedule and makes finding time for academics, sports, family and a social life troublesome, she still sees the benefits of it — mainly from an athlete’s perspective.  
“The start time works pretty well. If practice started an hour earlier it would be a lot hotter, making the work we put in harder and more exhausting. However, we would get home sooner which makes time for school work and family time,” Stevens said. “On nights when students have late games, or go out of town for a meet, earlier start times would be tough to wake up to. Whether or not times change, I think that no matter what time school starts and ends, someone will still complain about something.”