Everyone knows the stereotypes about gifted kids and athletes. And everybody in TIP knows how wrong those are, because TIPsters are always doing amazing things in all areas—including sports.
We conducted email interviews with some of those athletes to hear more about their experiences.
Tell us about your background in sports.
Alex, 4th grader: I do swimming as my main sport, but I also do baseball, tennis, football, and skiing.
I started competitive swimming at age five. I practice with my club team six days per week. My proudest achievement is winning the Minnesota State Championship meet. Some of my goals are to get better at kicking and to improve my backstroke. I also want to try to win the USA Swimming Central Zone Championship this summer in breaststroke.
Thomas, 5th grader: I play football, basketball, and baseball. My proudest moment so far is when I was able to lead my fourth-grade team to the championship. The game to get us to the championship was against an undefeated team that beat us in the regular season, but I was ready and so was my team. We beat them and made it to the championship.
Also, I receive lots of invitations to quarterback camps all the time. I am also strong in other sports. For example, this year my basketball team went to the championship.
Prajeeth, 6th grader: I currently play soccer. I started playing when I was three. I originally played for the fun of it. Then I decided to try out for a competitive team.
At the age of eight I made it onto the team after three years of trying out. I then made it to the premier team (highest level) a year later. I have participated in state cup (a statewide tournament) and other tournaments. Some of these tournaments have been in other states than ours, and we’ve played teams from Canada, Mexico, Idaho, Washington state, and others.
We are in the top two of the state right now and we have one more game to go to win it all. We are also ranked eleventh in the nation. I am really proud of all of that. I want to play soccer for as long as I can for a good club / academy or for a school team.
Soccer helps you learn the strategy, communication and collaboration, which will not only help me in sports, but with life. I also want to keep playing because I love playing soccer.
Jackson, 6th grader: I started playing sports when I was three years old. I played several sports, depending on what season it was—soccer, baseball, football, and basketball. Some of my proudest moments include leading my baseball all-star team to a division championship in the AAYBA World Series, as well as winning a division championship with my basketball team. My goal is to play college basketball.
What do you like about sports?
Alex: I love to compete. Whether I am competing in school or in sports, it doesn’t matter. When I race, I am always trying to get faster.
Another thing I really like about sports is the friends that I have made, both on my team and on other teams. I have made friends from several different states through swimming.
Thomas: What keeps me playing is that I can be able to be a gifted student athlete. That means that I am able to be a gifted student in school and a gifted athlete.
Another reason that I like to play is because I get to compete against the best players in my age group. I’m able to meet a lot of other athletes and am able to make new friends, whether it’s a new teammate or opponent.
Prajeeth: I don’t exactly have a reason why I like sports. I just really enjoy playing soccer and it kind of helps me get away from all of the other work I have. I like competing in sports because it gives you a positive feeling when you win. When you play against a team that are your rivals or a team at the top of the table and win, it just makes you feel good. When you lose, it gives you a sort of drive to work harder and get better.
Jackson: I like the competitiveness of sports, as well as the self-discipline and teamwork necessary to succeed. I am driven by knowing that if I work hard, it improves my chances of winning and improving.
What do you think about the stereotypes about gifted kids and athletes?
Alex: I think that those stereotypes are really silly. I think it is good for kids to be both smart and athletic, and lots of kids can do that if they try hard in both school and sports.
I think that being smart has helped me to make better race strategies for my swimming events. I am also able to help coach my younger brother so that he can improve his swimming too. Swimming has helped me to do better in school, because it has taught me to enjoy hard challenges. I have also learned how to set long-term goals and how to work hard to achieve those goals.
Thomas: They don’t effect me at all. I know my abilities and my talents and I’m not going to let anyone dictate my skills. I also make sure that my school work is completed before I do anything else. If I don’t get into a good school than I wouldn’t have an opportunity to play sports for my school.
The positions that I play go well with being good at academics, mostly quarterback. When you are a quarterback, you have to be able to control the game and you have to be able to run the offense and you have to be able to know what to do if the play breaks down.
Prajeeth: I think that the stereotypes about gifted kids and athletes should be kicked to the curb. Just because you are gifted does not mean that you cannot play sports. Vice versa, too. Just because you are an athlete does not mean that you cannot be gifted or smart.
My academic talent helps me understand things a lot easier. Not only that, but it helps you make moves with precision—the right moves, and done well. It helps you analyze the field too. For example, it is easier for me to see the trajectory of the ball, and I can predict my opponent’s movements.
My coach also sees me as a leader on the field. He thinks I have a better understanding and expects me to explain it to other players on our team. My athletic talent does affect my academic talent. In soccer especially, you have to learn to communicate and collaborate. Learning these skills helps me in academics.
Jackson: I don’t agree with stereotypes of gifted kids and athletes. It is possible to be well-rounded and successful in both areas. Athletics and academics help me with organizing my day to do the necessary things to be successful.
This issue is about new trends in sports analytics. Do you have any interest in that field?
Alex: I think it is great that people are using data to help improve their sports. I always want to improve, and newer and better technology can help with that.
In swimming, the electronic touchpad gives me all of my splits for my races. I look at those with my coaches, and we use them to improve my race strategy for the next meet.
Thomas: Definitely. I watch some film from some of the best players in sports. I watch players like Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning. For example, how are you supposed to play against the 2-3 in basketball? If you don’t watch and study, then you can’t counter it. Just like in school. You have to study to pass an exam.
Prajeeth: I am interested in that topic. I would like to see different ways gifted athletes use their talents and what they know to help them improve in sports. I would also like to see if gifted athletes tend to perform better than others while using their talents.
Jackson: I am interested in how analytics are used more in sports today. Most professional sports teams have an analytics department that provides statistics and data to help them gameplan for opponents, and put their own players in the best positions to perform well.