Sport is an aspect of many people’s lives, used for inciting joy, competition, stress relief and is also used for good physical health. However, many young people who wish to pursue sport further while legally having to be in full time education until the age of 18 are having to choose; conventional education or a committed sport life? 

Focusing on the young women given the opportunity to play for Arsenal Ladies’ Under 18s, they spoke about their views on how from a young age, as young as 13, students are having to choose between prioritising their sport life or their academic studies. Once students have sat their GCSEs, young people all over the country have the choice between A-levels, college or working within an apprenticeship scheme. However, students such as Rosie Langston, 17, and Tally Miles, 16, from Hertfordshire did not make their choices under the same circumstances. When playing for an institution such as Arsenal, it opens a lot of doors for those wishing to go further in sport; however, one cannot study A-levels while competing in sport at this level. If a young person is playing sport at an advanced level for a club such as Arsenal, they must follow the route consisting of college and sports-based studies if they wish to continue playing, training and competing at this advanced level. There is no option for young people to study a-levels of their choice while maintaining complex training within their chosen activity. This is a sport that they most likely would have been committed to for either most of or for all of their adolescence. 


The unbalanced nature of sport and academia is a long-standing social issue and according to Rosie Langston, (who had to end her time playing for Arsenal to study A-levels) it’s due to ‘a stereotype that you can’t be academic and sporty’ and it is one she feels is ‘completely wrong’. Langston uses examples of professional footballers that have proved this stereotype wrong, such as Eniola Aluko who has a law degree, and also Leah Williamson who is simultaneously playing professional football while studying an accountancy degree. These examples communicate that the choice to study a-levels while being involved in advanced sports should be available to young people in this situation. Langston further expresses that due to her choice to prioritise conventional studies, she feels as though she is missing out and that ‘as a sixth form student, she is actively encouraged to give up to give up sporting opportunities in order to prioritise her studies’. 

The main issue is that many of these major life choices that shape a young person's future are forcibly made at an extremely young age. Langston explains this aspect s ‘the choice to prioritise football has to be made far earlier than at a level, students may have to decide to miss classes at as young as 13-14 years oil in order to travel to training.’ The idea in which you must choose either education or sport is depicted from a young age, which is extremely problematic for those who are both academically successful as they are within their chosen sport.

However, not all have faced the narrowing choice of ‘education or sport?’ Many young people choose to go down the alternative route; to study at college and continue with their preferred sport. Tally Miles, also from Hertfordshire, chose to do this and expressed how it was worth not gaining a conventional education as ‘it provides her with opportunities she wouldn't have had if she had stuck with a conventional education’. Although this process benefits many students that are solely focused on a career in sports; this is due to the college courses provided alongside professional training is sport related, such as coaching courses. 


Even though students such as Miles are confident and happy with their choice and their future, it doesn’t mean they are happy with how some of their teammates have been affected by this divisional choice. Miles expressed her thoughts on the fact that herself and others had to make this decision fairly young, saying ‘it isn’t fair because some of the best footballers I know are academic, but they do not get the same opportunities that I get at college due to their desire for a conventional education’. Opportunities involve visits from England coaches and scouts, a major benefactor when pursuing a career in football.

In order to help prevent any stress when making decisions such as this, both Langston and Miles feel as though young people should be aware of the sacrifices and decisions they will have to make before the time comes. Although Langston feels as though ‘these sacrifices shouldn’t have to exist’ and she expresses that the answer to fixing this problem for future academics and athletes is that they should be given ‘provision and support’.