Vail Daily column: Snowsport participation enhances academics | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Snowsport participation enhances academics

Throughout the years, competitive snowsport professionals have found student-athletes who commit to personal excellence in snowsports demonstrate a corresponding high level of academic achievement.

For Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes who choose to pursue a full-time involvement in snowsports, there are certainly additional challenges compared to other students. Inherent in a competitive ski or snowboard program are long hours of training and often a demanding travel schedule. With a significant amount of attention focused on implementing balance between academics and athletics, we've found snowsport participation and academic success can not only coexist but enhance performance in each other.

social fabric of the community

At the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, which caters exclusively to full-time snowsport athletes, students have achieved the sixth-highest ACT scores out of 355 public high schools around the state. The prior year, the academy was ranked 13th.

According to a recent University of Utah study, nearly two-thirds its student-athletes qualified for the Athletic Director’s honor roll while more than one-third were named to the dean’s list, which requires at least a 3.5 grade-point average. As the study states, the women’s ski team turned in the highest GPA at 3.76 and also placed 75 percent of its members on the dean’s list, the highest percentage in the athletic department.

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At Vail Mountain School — Ski & Snowboard Club Vail's other academic partner — the work ethic absorbed by our athletes through the rigor of ski racing correlates to success in other areas. Full-time athletes, at that institution make significant contributions to the academic and social fabric of the community.

This trend continues at the college level. According to a recent University of Utah study, nearly two-thirds its student-athletes qualified for the Athletic Director's honor roll while more than one-third were named to the dean's list, which requires at least a 3.5 grade-point average. As the study states, the women's ski team turned in the highest GPA at 3.76 and also placed 75 percent of its members on the dean's list, the highest percentage in the athletic department.

better college placement

In my personal experience (which includes several years as headmaster at Burke Mountain Academy and assistant headmaster at Green Mountain Valley School), student-athletes who are involved in snowsports tend to achieve better college placement. More importantly, they tend to do exceptionally well at the college of their choice.

Snowsport participation benefits students in several ways. For starters, there have been numerous studies indicate exercise leads to better performance in the classroom.

Additionally, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail has rigorous academic requirements for athletes to remain on the hill. Students who begin to fall behind academically risk losing the privilege of being able to ski or snowboard. Many families have high expectations for academic effort as requisite of participation with the club. More significantly, once our athletes develop the understanding of focusing on the goal of doing their absolute best in their sport they tend to apply the same effort and focus to their academics.

Because of the increased demand of their schedules, our athletes develop an accelerated understanding of time management and discipline which may not have otherwise been developed until college. Our student-athletes simply have less time on their hands, which I would argue is a good thing. When they go on to college, they tend to do well because they understand how to manage their time and deal with rigor and challenge.

rise from adversity

We all understand the nature of snowsports is tough. In individual sports one person wins per day, and athletes learn to evaluate their performance based on how they executed relative to their personal expectations. Our athletes learn to accept and work through failure and challenge more than athletes who participate in team sports and certainly more than students who forgo participation in any sport. From relative failure, they not only remain motivated but also learn to transcend and rise from adversity.

Our student-athletes at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail choose to pursue snowsports as a full-time activity, in some cases in lieu of other extracurriculars. Most importantly, this involvement does not jeopardize academic performance. Experience indicates dedication and commitment to a sport, in fact, enhances academic performance.

Kirk Dwyer is the executive director of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and former Headmaster of Burke Mountain Academy, where he coached, among others, Vail's own Mikaela Shiffrin.