The student news site of Aspen High School


The student news site of Aspen High School


The student news site of Aspen High School


Late Spring Sports Practices are Hurting Students

Photo by Addy Christensen
AHS Skier turf during the first round of Girl’s soccer playoffs.

Imagine leaving for school at seven in the morning and not getting home until fifteen hours later.

This is a reality for spring sports athletes at Aspen High School. In order to give all three spring sports that use the Turf equal playing time on the whole field, the school established three rotating time slots: 4 to 5:30pm, 5:30 to 7pm, and 7 to 9pm. For future spring seasons, the 7 to 9pm time slot needs to be replaced with an earlier practice at a different field.

“It’s too late and there isn’t enough time to do things like eat dinner because it is not realistic to do that before practice,” said Junior Ela Stevenson who played lacrosse.

These late practices make it almost impossible for student-athletes to get enough sleep to perform well in both school and athletics, while also increasing risks of injury and even death from motor vehicle crashes, not to mention the familial stress it imposes on athletes.

It is no secret that high school students require a lot of sleep. The Mayo Clinic recommends that students get 8-10 hours of sleep for every 24-hour cycle. Many students at Aspen High School live far from the school and practices. Students who live in downvalley communities like Basalt and Carbondale are at least 30 minutes away. Practices never end right at the end of the time slot. Athletes can expect to stay an extra fifteen minutes at least. Students get home at about 10 pm on nights when they have late practice. Then they need to finish their homework.

“If I don’t have homework I go to bed as soon as I get home and shower, so like 11:30,” Sophomore soccer player Karina De Leon said. “If I have homework I go to sleep around 1:00.”
Exercising close to bedtime can actually delay when athletes fall asleep. Exercise raises the body’s core temperature and releases endorphins. While rise in core temperature and the release of endorphins do not have negative health effects, they make it much harder to fall asleep. When the body’s core temperature falls back to a normal level it actually makes the person sleepier. This can take between 30-90 minutes. A person’s endorphins take between one and two hours to return to normal.

There are many risks associated with lack of sleep, such as; motor vehicle crashes, illness, and injury. In high school, many students drive themselves to school and home from practices. Lack of sleep can cause micro-sleeps (falling asleep behind the wheel for less than a second), slower reaction times, poor judgment, and a change in vision. All of these can lead to motor vehicle crashes. In 2021, 1.6% of fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States were attributed to drowsy driving, or driving after a lack of sleep. That is about 684 deaths. Sleep is when the body recovers. Without recovery, athletes are more prone to injuries. With less than seven hours an athlete has a heightened risk of musculoskeletal injuries. Lack of sleep also lowers the immune system.

Between not being able to focus, or retain information and not being in class due to being sick, lack of sleep can dramatically affect a student’s performance in school. Sleep solidifies memory, and improves focus-necessary for learning. Lack of sleep can cause depression and anxiety which contribute to stress and make it harder for students to focus on learning.

Sleep is also important for performance in athletics. Sleep improves accuracy and endurance, two key factors in sports performance. A study found that collegiate basketball players experiencing sleep deprivation’s free throw accuracy dropped by 50%. After getting ten or more hours of sleep their accuracy improved by 10%. Sleep deprivation impairs endurance in walking, running, and cycling regardless of the exercise endpoint.

Practice attendance is incredibly important in high school athletics. Without almost perfect attendance athletes can not expect to make a varsity team or get adequate playing time. This means attending 7 to 9pm practices is incredibly important. For younger student-athletes who can not drive yet, the burden of pickups falls on parents. This can be very difficult for families with only one driver and younger siblings who need to be in bed by 9pm. No matter what the family decides to do, resentment can form between the athlete and their parents, causing more stress in the athlete’s life which will continue to impact school and sports performance.

These late night practices are necessary due to a shortage of available athletic fields. With enough funding the school district could rent or build more athletic fields. An example of an athletic field the school could rent is the one at the Aspen Recreation Center. This could be costly but also worth it to protect our school’s student-athletes.

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