Edtor’s Note: This essay, written by Elise Matera of Chapel Hill High School, was the first winner in what is to become an annual contest posted by the N.C. High School Athletics Association, in which students were challenged to answer in 400 words or less the following question.
What makes a Scholar-Athlete?
Far from the dumb jock or the unpopular nerd, the scholar-athlete is a striking shade of grey on the spectrum of stereotypes; two seemingly unlikely parts joined together by a hyphen, a determination to succeed, and a love to learn.
At the sports awards each fall, as our team packs into our school’s auditorium alongside the other Chapel Hill Tiger athletes, we joke that our cross country team’s average GPA will tip the scale at over 5.0, and it’s not far from the truth.
The sport somehow collects smart students like a magnet. Perhaps it’s because the cross country team doesn’t make cuts and therefore attracts busy students, but I think it has more to do with the willpower requisite to being a competitor both in school and in sports.
A student becomes a scholar-athlete when his or her motivation and drive to succeed is too massive to fit into one aspect of his or her life, bursting the seams and spilling over into both athletics and academics.
Although accomplishing athletic and scholarly goals builds confidence and self-esteem, being a real scholar-athlete precludes a student from being an egotist.
Ultimately, what really motivates these student-athletes is passion.
As athletes, specifically runners, we love our sport so much that winning is just a bonus on top of the friendships we’ve made and the miles we’ve covered.
So much time and pain goes into running that we have to be really devoted to push forward to enjoy the sport’s invaluable gifts.
As students, we are in love with learning new ways to approach people and ideas, and express our opinions more clearly.
Running has opened doors in my life that I had not known existed before I joined cross country or track, and my education has done the same.
Staying motivated and focused in school has given me the opportunity to explore my college options without being hindered by a low class rank or SAT score.
I know, looking back, my high school career and my time as a Chapel Hill runner will never be severed from each other, because being a Chapel Hill student for me means putting everything I have into learning as much as I can and running my hardest.
Being both an athlete and a student are deeply rewarding experiences, and finding a balance between the two is what really makes a scholar-athlete.
CHHS junior Elise Matera is a member of the cross-country and track teams at Chapel Hill High School.