Are high school sports worth it?

I was just wondering if high school sports are really worth it. I am a freshman, and spring sports tryouts are a week from now (It’s this late because of COVID). I know I am good enough to get into varsity tennis but idk if I want to. I am not good enough to do anything higher than varsity tennis, and I don’t plan to become 1st in my state or something like that. I want to focus on other things.

So does saying “I played varsity high school tennis” even mean anything significant to colleges. I am asking this because I don’t know if I want to do it due to the high time commitment. I still enjoy tennis, but I feel like varsity is a big-time commitment, and it might not be worth it. Let me know what I should do.

If you don’t love it why not do something you do love? One of my daughters asked Emory admissions when she was in 9th if she could compete being a multi-sport athlete since he other EC’s might be limited. They said they absolutely looked at the whole picture.

Both played multiple sports, did other EC’s, and maintained their 4.0UW GPA’s while taking a lot of AP’s and Honors classes. This year they both applied ED to their favorite school and got accepted. It was a lot of work and a huge time commitment. Besides Varsity athletics they had Club and it seemed they never had a break. I would tell them if it was too much to throttle back but they kept grinding.

In their case it worked but they also loved the sports they played and weren’t doing it just to have an EC checked off.

If you aren’t going to be a recruited athlete then high school sports is no more important than other ECs. The best EC is one that you are genuinely interested in. The worst is one that you are doing just to check an imagined box on a college application.


This is what I used to say to my Freshmen: “you have 4 short years left to be a “kid,” don’t waste them doing a sport you don’t love.” Otherwise, I can pretty much predict in 2 years you’ll be back here asking: “I’ve been doing my sport for 2 years, and I really want to quit. I’m worried it will affect my applications; what should I do?” Go find your passion. If it’s tennis, great; if not, maybe it’s theatre or band or robotics or debate or…


Would you need to play on varsity your freshman year?

What other EC’s do/will you do?

High school sports take up a ridiculous amount of time. I think they are worthwhile if 1. You will be a recruited athlete, or 2. You love them, or 3. They fulfill some physical education requirement you otherwise have, so aren’t really optional.

For my kids, it was option 3. They had to do them, but did get a lot out of the team and training experience.

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What would you do if I told you that it wouldn’t impact your college admissions? If the answer is that you would play, then play. If not, then don’t. Just don’t do nothing.

Probably at many colleges, if you are not a recruited athlete, sports would be just another extracurricular, which would be viewed in terms of your commitment and achievement in it.

There may be some colleges where, even if you are not a recruited athlete, sports may be favored over other extracurriculars for some reason. For example, the “Harvard lawsuit” documents mentioned multiple holistic scores given to each applicant in initial application readings; one of the scores was for athletics. Small colleges with lots of sports teams may favor sports as extracurriculars even among non-recruits in order to provide a large pool of potential walk-ons. Military service academies are obviously interested in applicants’ physical fitness.

It’s worth it if you enjoy it.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend investing the time needed for a sport just for some college admissions line item if you don’t enjoy it.

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Like the other comments say, it’s worth it if you enjoy it! Varsity sports shows dedication to practicing your sport, refining your abilities, and ability to organize your time and work with others. If you can get team captain, that’s also pretty awesome! I don’t think varsity sports is a spike in your application, however, unless you are D1 level. Just make sure you have room for other ECs you enjoy too!

You have to love it.

The benefits of playing the sport, traveling with the team, having social events with the team (dinners, ice cream socials, pajama wake-ups, Karaoke nights, etc.) and meeting other school teams are part of what the students enjoyed.

The local coaches were popular and wrote up great LOC’s. The school admins trained the coaches to always present positive words of encouragement. Some of these kids had never heard adults praise them, so it was welcomed by the student athletes.

My kids loved it and developed strong friendships with teammates and still continue those friendships.
You ABSOLUTELY HAVE to love the sport.
If it’s not something you love, then don’t do it.


I was just like you, all caught up in stuff in like but I did sports and I loved it. Disregard college for this situation and do it if you want to! Live in the moment and not the future. Sports were something that kept me grounded while pursuing my academic goals. I wasn’t good but I had fun.

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Unless you’re going to be a recruited athlete, a sport is no more important than other high school activities. If there is something else that you would enjoy more, spend your time on that. If there is something that you love doing, and for which you might be able to achieve state-wide or even national recognition, definitely do that instead.

It’s not unusual for the students who get into tippy-top schools to have national level achievement in something, PLUS they play a varsity sport, but those students are usually playing the sport for the love of it - it’s not the varsity sport that’s propelling them into the tippy top schools - it’s the national level achievement in something else.

If it’s playing varsity tennis vs doing no other more compelling EC this spring, then definitely do the varsity tennis.

What are your other options that you are considering for outside-of-class activities?

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Playing varsity tennis as a freshman is impressive.

Tennis is more than an athletic endeavor; tennis is a social activity that enables one to meet other individuals in a close, yet non-threatening relationship.

Tennis is a great way to meet others for both social & business purposes.

If you became captain of the tennis team, colleges will notice. This is seen as evidence of leadership & maturity & trustworthiness rather than solely as athletic ability.

I attended an LAC for college. I was very athletic & came in after having been captain of multiple sports teams during prep school. It made a difference in my freshman year housing assignment as I was given what can reasonably be considered as the best room in the entire freshman dorm. I was treated with a lot of respect by coaches, administrators, & faculty at this school with almost 2,500 students.

Like you, I played & was captain of a sport I did not like–soccer. But it was a way to get exercise & to stay out of trouble. Although well qualified, I never considered playing soccer during college either formally or informally. (I still dislike the sport even though I was a skilled & passionate participant when I played soccer.)

Tennis is different. Tennis is a social tool that can be used in a highly selective manner. I did not take up tennis until after college. This was a huge mistake. The relationships built from tennis equal those made in golf.

Had I played tennis in college, I have no doubt that I would have enjoyed the LAC experience. Tennis also is a great way to build intimate relationships at major national universities & in large cities & in professional settings.

Are high school sports worth it ? Yes. High school sports offer much more value to the development of the individual physically & socially & with respect to discipline than you realize at this point of your life.

P.S. Plus, the jackass factor is quite low in the world of tennis compared to other sports.

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Thank you all for all the help. I ended up trying out for the team yesterday and I made it. I actually do like to play tennis and I feel like it is a great way to get exercise (which I haven’t gotten much of) and get new friends. Also, as many of you pointed out tennis is a great social tool, and can help me grow relationships in the future.


Congratulations! Go have fun and be the best teammate you can be!