Augustana has a recommended list of courses students should take in high school to prepare for college. With the possible
exception of our foreign language recommendation, most of these classes are required to graduate from high school.
However, every year I have students talk to me about their senior year course work. Typically students fall into three categories:
1. I’m going to take a “blow off” year.
2. Whatever they sign me up for I’ll take.
3. I’m going to pretty much kill myself by taking the hardest classes I can.
As I’ve been watching the Olympics and interviewing students as they prepare for their senior year, I’m finding some similarities between world champions and the students I believe will be successful.
Obviously, not training for a year prior to the Olympics – or training a minimal amount – doesn’t bode well for success at the games in the same way a “blow off” year
or taking the least amount of classes and a lot of study halls senior year doesn’t bode well for success in college. Muscles aren’t used to the competition in the same way taking a year off from challenging coursework can allow a student to get out of practice with being a good student.
Not caring – just taking whatever is suggested without being invested – well, that can have drawbacks too, because “heart” and mental engagement are half the battle to success. This quote says it best:
If you could have the arms of Hercules, legs as swift as the wind, if you could leap shoulder high above the rim, have all the kick of a dolphin, the reflexes of a cat, if you could have all this, you would have the body, you would have the tools, but you will not have greatness until you understand that the strongest muscle is the heart.
So, without focus and engagement – success may be elusive even if you have the ability.
I also believe that athletes can over train. And students can over commit themselves to high level classes. There is something to be said for pushing beyond the limit, for reaching for goals, for strengthening and flexing muscles and aptitudes to the very edge – but there should be a balance. If students are too overwhelmed and unable to balance the extra with the academic – there is often a cost. Over trained athletes often pay these costs as well – with torn hamstrings, exhaustion, or just a lack of enjoyment when(if) the victory actually comes.
The best students, like the best Olympic athletes learn to balance the challenge, the drive, and the passion with a rest day, a recognition of what is really necessary to be successful and a commitment to self over the goal. With this balance, success will likely follow because it’s core strength (athletic pun intended) that often makes the difference. Knowing yourself, your abilities and taking those to the next level without breaking almost always fosters greatness.