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IPA Girls Varsity Basketball and Academics: The Bigger Game


Guest post contributed by Kody Yoffee (ʻ18)


Peyton Pedrozo of ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY (IPA) has helped the girls’ varsity basketball team win three ILH Division III Championships, all while maintaining good grades in seven classes. One would think that students participating in sports don’t acquire academic success and that sports affect academics in a negative way. However, what many people might not see is that sports can positively affect student academics.

IPA’s sports program was founded in 2006 and now has thirty-one different sports teams including basketball, volleyball, track and field, cross country and air riflery. Mike Axelrod took over as Athletic Director in 2015. Athletics are available for students in 6th-12th grade and play a role in the lives of those students that choose to participate.

“[Athletics is] hugely important. Everybody needs to be participating in physical activity and it’s been proven that it’s good for you academically, it’s good for you physically, so it’s huge. Schools that don’t have a vigorous athletic program are missing a big part of their education,” said Axelrod.

Pedrozo is a great example of a student athlete that upholds the values that the athletic department looks for in students. Sports has helped Pedrozo become academically successful.

IPA student athletes
Left: Keegan Tomonaga, Middle: Elizabeth Lyons-Best, Right: Peyton Pedrozo

“If I weren’t playing sports I feel like I would just go home and not get anything done. With sports, I am forced and motivated to do homework because I know that if I start to fall behind I won’t be able to play,” said Pedrozo.

John J. Ratey, a Harvard University Psychiatrist and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain writes about the correlation between exercise and the improvement of brain functions.

“MRI scans of the brains of sedentary people who suddenly improve their fitness show increased volume in the hippocampus and frontal and temporal lobes, regions of the brain associated with cognitive functioning. The hippocampus in particular is associated with memory and learning,” wrote Ratey.

When sitting in the classroom learning, the part of one’s brain called the hippocampus is retaining that short-term information one’s gathering and converting it into long-term memory. With the increased activity in the hippocampus due to sports, one’s brain is functioning at a faster rate, causing one to able to retain all of the important information one is learning, which could help student athletes on upcoming tests to achieve a good grade. Ratey’s work provides evidence of the benefits that student athletes are receiving at IPA by participating in their sports programs.

Along with athletic success, a student must also be academically successful in order to participate in sports. This applies to all Divisions [DI, DII, and DIII], which means students must turn in work on time, achieve grades above a 2.0 grade point average (GPA), and must be able to balance their time between sports and academics.
“If there’s a student that has a particular class that they’re having issues in we work on ways that we can support them so that they don’t lose their eligibility. We don’t want them to get to that point, we want them to get ahead of it, so it’s staying ahead of that issue that’s important,” said Axelrod.

Another student who has found athletic success along with academic success is Keegan Tomonaga, who is also on the girls’ varsity basketball team. She started playing sports at IPA in 2016, which was also her first year attending a small private school. Keegan has realized that teamwork applies to both athletics and academics, and also has a positive effect on her work ethic.

“In order to be a good teammate, you need to be able to contribute, which is similar to academics because in order to succeed you will need teamwork and collaboration with your classmates,” said Tomonaga.

Also achieving athletic and academic success is Elizabeth Lyons-Best who, alongside Peyton, has helped the girls’ varsity basketball team win three ILH Division III Championships. With all the time spent on the court, Lyons-Best realized that she needs to spend just as much time on school work as she does on sports.

“Without sports my academics would be affected very negatively, I know I would do good but I also know I would have to push myself to stay on top of my work and keep up with academics,” said Lyons-Best.

The members of IPA’s girls’ varsity basketball team demonstrate how sports can positively affect student academics. As the athletic program at IPA continues to grow, it is clear that future student athletes will also be positively affected by athletics.