If you ask a middle school student, “What’s your favorite subject?” A very likely response is PE, but not when you are talking to a student-athlete like Kira. She says, “In my opinion, PE doesn’t count.” Instead, Kira goes with history because “Mr. Wirth is a really good teacher and he has a way of making you interested in things that you might not have thought were interesting.”

This brief exchange opens a window into the world of a young student who successfully balances a schedule of competitive tennis tournaments and challenging academics. That is not an easy accomplishment, but one so many kids try to achieve. Here is how Kira does it.

Meet the Student-Athlete
Kira is a BASIS Independent Manhattan grade 6 student and a competitive tennis player. She practices five times a week and plays in USTA (United States Tennis Association) Level 5 tournaments on the weekends. After picking up a racket at age three, Kira started playing tennis in earnest by six and within two years, she had her sights set on playing professionally. “I plan on turning pro when I grow up. I understand this is going to be hard, but I always put in my best effort.”

Kira and her dog, Mindo

Sitting down with Kira, she shows a quiet confidence – humble yet proud. Her composure and attentiveness are noticeable, evident from the years she has spent listening to coaches, navigating competing priorities, and doing homework in the car on the way to and from tennis practice. Although she sometimes gets carsick, Kira knows she has to make the most of any free time to stay on top of her studies. At school, Kira’s effortful schedule covers the core courses, including three sciences (biology, chemistry, and physics), a foreign language (Latin), and a logic class.

Why all of this hard work and sacrifice? Because she recognizes her potential, believes in her talent, and loves what she is doing.

HubSpot Video


Sacrifices & Staying Organized
To straddle the life of a student-athlete, Kira continues to mention the choices she must make in order to maintain good grades. That means tennis tournaments instead of weekend parties at a friend’s house and meal planning to feed her body and mind nutritious foods instead of eating 10 lollipops (like a friend of hers did once!). Making disciplined choices like these happen because of her excellent time management and organization skills. A glimpse into how it all works is with Kira’s daily planning that she writes down in a journal. Here, she clearly prioritizes what is important – always school, studying, and tennis – and gets her in the right mindset for the day.
Daily Journal
Kira says, “A strong mind is one of the qualities I have and am still developing, but it really does help me.” She often relies on her tennis mindset to be successful at school, whether it is attacking her studies the night before a test like a fierce competitor or finding a way to focus at school following a tough tournament loss. “I won’t be sobbing in English class about it. My mental toughness allows me to focus on the lesson that day.”

Success Starts at School
All of these tools – time management, organization, self-motivation, and a strong mindset -- help her keep her grades up, which means she can keep playing tennis. “If I don’t do well in academics, then my tennis goes downhill too.”

Kira at school

As an athlete, Kira is always looking to improve. As a student, she is an active participant in her education, taking advantage of every opportunity from extra credit to student hours.

She loves the unique offering of student hours at BASIS Independent Manhattan, which she attends weekly for history, physics, and chemistry. Going back to why Mr. Wirth is her favorite teacher, Kira explains how he recognized a lack of effort on her part after a slight decline in her performance on tests and quizzes. He encouraged her to attend his student hours, and then she took her notes home and created study sheets to keep her familiar with all of the terms. After that, she did well on her next assessments and Kira said it wasn’t too hard – it was actually fun.

She also goes the extra mile and seeks out extra credit. It was no easy task, but she constructed a very detailed 3D diagram of an animal cell for Ms. Horoszewski’s biology class. Now Kira has banked a high grade to use whenever she might need it.

biology project

Fun, Friends, and a Solid Foundation
Everything isn’t a struggle or sacrifice for Kira though. She approaches challenges by finding a way to have fun. Meaning, in a class like physics, that she admits not liking, she chooses to go to Dr. Lai’s student hours because “he is funny and nice and makes you understand things.”

Even if she doesn’t go to all the parties, she has best friends. Kira confides in her two closest friends at school and only shares her tennis accomplishments with them because she trusts them. Kira says they really understand her and “they’re also a lot of fun to hang out with.”

Lastly, there is one person who probably provides the greatest perspective on how Kira achieves happiness and success as a student-athlete. Kira’s mom, who is also one of her tennis coaches and a former competitive player herself, notes:

“A pursuit of one's dream – whether it is sports, academics, art, or music – is challenging yet rewarding, grinding yet character-building, and worthwhile only if the process is enjoyable. BASIS Independent Manhattan does a wonderful job of creating the perfect foundation for kids to reach the heights of their potential. Excellent teachers and dedicated staff combined with a strong parent community create the right place for our children to surpass their goals and have fun with each step they take.”

The moral of this story is that even with a busy schedule, students can have a joyful experience inside and outside of school. 

You can learn more about our well-rounded, high-achieving BASIS Curriculum, at an Upper School (Gr. 6-12) Open House on Sunday, Apr. 10 at 10:00 a.m.  Learn more »