Coaching Resource

How Learning Mathematics Helps Athletes Succeed

September 27, 2021
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By Lillie Therieau 


It might seem counterintuitive, but math skills are important for any professional athlete. (Or casual ones, for that matter!) 


Most sports incorporate a certain amount of math in the rules, the way the game is played, and strategies for winning. Whether it's angles, calculating scores, or figuring out how to distribute players on a field, math comes in handy. 


Key-performance indicators (KPIs) are also very important in professional sports, as they help athletes gauge their performance and evaluate their team members and peers. Understanding how KPIs work is critical for participating in conversations, being accountable, and setting growth goals. 


Finally, athletes need math skills for a very basic reason. It’s why we all need math skills: We happen to live in a money-based society! 


Sooner or later, we find ourselves working with fractions, decimals, and percentages. Math skills are critical for financial success and literacy, and learning them early helps young adults make smart money choices. This is no different for young athletes, especially when they may be making more money than they ever have before. 


Money is a tricky thing in the sports world and understanding how it works is important for getting a fair deal! 


If your child is reluctant to participate and invest in math because of their focus on sports, it might be time to discuss the link between mathematics and athletics. 


It’s a great motivator and can help students connect abstract math ideas to their favorite 

real-life games. 


Using Math To Understand KPIs 


Whether you’re a wannabe pro athlete or simply a committed fan, understanding KPIs is essential. They translate the performance of every player and team into a system of numbers, to compare players, run hypothetical scenarios, and keep track of growth. 


KPIs are often expressed in percentages or fractions. They refer to the number of times a player or team does something over the full amount of games they’ve played or goals scored in a season. 


KPIs actually originated in the business world, as a strategy for tracking business and revenue growth and organizational capacity. However, they were so useful for communicating these indicators that they’ve been translated into the sports world. 


If your young sports fan is struggling with percentages or fractions, discussing KPIs may be the perfect way to make a deeper connection. Students often need to see math concepts play out in the real world to understand them, and professional sports may be just the thing. 


Sit down and watch a game with your student. How many goals out of the total amount of goals scored did each player make? How can those fractions be translated into percentages? 


If your student wants to go pro, they’ll need to know how KPIs work, how to calculate them, and how to figure out their own! 


For instance, the Denver Broncos are very transparent about the salaries that they give each player. The salaries and any potential raises are linked to the players’ KPIs. If someone wants to understand why they are making a certain amount of money, they simply need to figure out their KPIs. 


Many teams use similar methods, even if they aren’t as open about it. Statistics are king in the sports world! They’re what coaches use to plan and train, and what fans use in commentary or fantasy leagues. They’re central to how games are played and understood. 


Developing this knowledge early on is important and useful. If students understand their stats, they can bargain for better deals and challenge themselves to raise these stats whenever they can. They can set concrete goals for themselves. 


Connecting Sports To Learning Mathematics


Students learn new concepts or subjects better when they can be connected to subjects that they’re already interested in. That’s why connecting math to sports is a great strategy to get your student motivated. 


Watching sports together and discussing math is a great start! How many points does one team need in order to catch up with the other? What are a few possible ways that they could accumulate those points? 


It could also be helpful to look at your child’s favorite team’s KPIs. How many stats can you find on that team? You can both break them down together and figure out how they were calculated. 


When it comes to angles and geometry, sports can be a huge help. What angle does someone standing at a particular point in the field need to kick the ball at to get in the goal? How does a certain team’s strategy rely on geometric patterns? 


Sports aren’t just physical, they’re also largely about strategy and statistics. Get your student interested in the underlying aspects of the games and watch them engage with math in a whole new way! 


Student-Athletes Can Be Very Busy 


Your student-athlete is most likely very busy! Between school, sports practice, games, and their home life, they hardly have a second of downtime. They live and breathe their sport. It’s totally understandable, but it can make it tough for young athletes to see the point of math in their lives. 


They may ask themselves, “Why make time for something I’m not interested in?”


However, no matter their feelings about math, they need to hone their numbers skills if they want to be successful athletes. 


A simple 10 minutes a day, three times a week using Elephant Learning will help athletes brush up on their mathematical skills. Over the course of just three months, students will see over a year of math progress. 


They can fit this time wherever they want in their busy schedule and it won’t take up any more of their precious downtime than necessary. They could even grab their 10 minutes during the car ride to school! 


After learning about the importance of math to professional athletes, your student should want to set themselves up for success. 


Get started now and be prepared when you go pro!


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