Share this article

print logo

WORK OR PLAY?
SOME TEENS FIND THEMSELVES CHOOSING BETWEEN SPORTS OR A JOB

Do you have trouble deciding whether to continue playing sports or get a part-time job?

Well, you're not alone. Many teens feel pressure to make this decision. Sports are fun, but making money is sometimes essential. A teenager's life often revolves around money, or the lack thereof. A Friday night at the movies -- $8, that new shirt -- $30, and of course the car that will possibly eat up your allowance for the next 20 years. More and more teens are getting jobs, whether to save for a car or to pay for those teenage necessities.

Former Immaculata Academy softball and bowling coach Dave Sambora has often witnessed such choices by his players. "Students are constantly juggling, especially in varsity sports. A girl might want to participate, but has to take extra hours at work. That's a very difficult choice to make, especially at this stage in life." He did say that high school students may regret not playing sports. "For many people, high school is the only chance to be in a sport, because college sports are a whole different ball game," he said.

Bonnie Williams, girls' varsity softball coach at Orchard Park High, said she expects total commitment from her athletes since so many girls want to play. "In general I think most of my kids do not work because a lot of them play sports year-round so that is what they've decided to put their energies into." Coaches at Amherst Central High stress to athletes the need to commit to their sport and that if they can't play and hold a job, they should give one up. "We'll give a kid a break every now and then, unless it becomes a habit," says Robert O'Donnell, Amherst cross-country and track and field coach. "It can't be once a week, but if something comes up for a job once or twice a season, we'll be flexible as long as they're not taking advantage of us."

Mariah Dixon, a senior at Holy Angels, made the decision to quit sports and get a job at 16. "I played basketball, soccer, and ran track during my freshman and sophomore years. So, I know what it is like to be part of a team," she said. She works in the cheese department at Wegmans on Amherst Street. "I work five days a week, three hours during the week and seven hours on the weekend," she said. "I'm a people person, so I love working."

When asked about any downsides to working as a teen, Mariah says, "I don't have a lot of time for family and friends, but I love my job. I do miss the camaraderie of a sports team though." Like a sports team, though, the job atmosphere creates room for forming friendships. "My co-workers are like family, just like a sports team is a family. So I still have the social aspect of a sports team." She saves some of her earnings "for college expenses and of course with the rest I shop for clothes."

Rachel Wojcik, a senior and star basketball player at Immaculata Academy, noted that if a teen does try to work during a sports season, it leaves little time for anything else. "Basketball was six days a week for two hours a day, I never would have had time to have a job," she said. "Teachers expect homework to be done, employers expect work to get done, friends expect time to hang out, coaches expect time for practices and games, how could you ever do all of that?"

Immaculata senior Emily Markel picked soccer over working -- and lost her job because of it. "I requested one weekend off over the summer because we had a tournament, and they fired me," she said. "I understand the importance of being committed to work and everything else, but for me, sports was more important in the long run."

Working teens who don't have time for the demands of a school team may opt for sports leagues offered through gyms or community centers. Others may play just one sport and get a job when the season is over. Hutch-Tech junior Patrick Crosby concentrated on swimming during the season and is now working at McDonald's.

Patrick, who has been undefeated in 50-yard freestyle for the past three years, says one advantage of playing sports is "It motivates me to keep my grades up. The disadvantage of ... is that I can't get and do a lot of things I would like to because of money," he said. Patrick sees rewards in both sports and working. "It's possible that I can get a swimming scholarship and working now sets the foundation for my future careers and job advancement," he said.

Some teens find they can manage a job along with sports and school. Lindsay Bergman, another senior from Holy Angels Academy, last winter juggled a demanding schedule of basketball, schoolwork, and a part-time job. After school, she would "head to basketball practice for two hours or so, and after that I go to work for about two hours."

"I have little time for myself and even less time for friends. The benefit of working and playing sports is that I have learned time management," she said. "I have little regrets about playing sports and working, but I do miss not having much time to do things."

Rob Glownia, a senior at St. Joe's, also manages to play sports and hold a job. "Working and playing sports has allowed me to learn better time management, but I do feel there are a few disadvantages to my schedule," he said. "I find myself stuck staying up late doing homework. The disadvantage is the huge lack of sleep!" He plays football, lacrosse, and is a member of the wrestling team. Playing three sports during the school year takes a lot of time and self-discipline. Rob goes to school, practice, and works two days of the week. "Sunday is the only day I have off from sports, so I work," he said. Rob works at the Buffalo Launch Club and starting saving money for a car a little while ago. Of course, with a car come new responsibilities: Rob has to pay for insurance and fill his tank with gas. "It's nice to have things, especially a car," Rob says. "So, if it means I have to work a few nights a week after practice, I don't mind."

NeXt correspondents Lizz Schumer, Justine Januszkiewicz and Janet Aronica contributed to this story.