Start of school is like athletes preparing for new season


RUMFORD — Mountain Valley High School Principal Matt Gilbert compared how students should prepare for a new school year to an athlete’s preparation for a new season.

“Professional athletes have various routines they use to get in shape for a new season of competition,” he said. “They prepare physically, mentally and emotionally. Students and their families have the last few days of summer to prepare for the school year.”

Gilbert offered the following tips and suggestions:

Physical preparation

Professional athletes make sure they have the proper equipment for their sport. Sometimes that equipment is new. Sometimes it’s used.

Similarly, students need to get their equipment ready also. They will need a notebook for each class, pens, pencils, a scientific or graphing calculator and a backpack to carry it all.

With the school budget reduced, parents will be expected to provide more school supplies. Many stores offer back-to-school sales, so it pays to stock up now, store the supplies and deal them out throughout the year.

“An organization system is important,” Gilbert said. “For some students, it’s a smaller notebook to write assignments in. For others, it’s a calendar app on their phone. Whatever the student chooses, an organization system has to be used to be effective.”

Just as a football player wouldn’t wear shorts and a tank top in a game, students need to dress appropriately for the school environment. The dress code was sent to each Mountain Valley High School student’s family earlier in the summer. It can also be found on the district’s website,

As professional athletes begin working out for an upcoming season, they concentrate on their diet. They eat fresh, whole foods that contain maximum nutrients.

Similarly, students should review their eating habits. They should strive for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day and no sweetened drinks.

“We have an opportunity to provide free breakfast and lunch for all students at (Mountain Valley High School) this year,” Gilbert said. “To collect economic data for the nutrition program, a green form was mailed home to parents this summer. It is critical for parents to return the easy-to-fill-out form.”

Mental preparation

“Successful professional athletes are great goal-setters and planners,” Gilbert said. “They know what they want, the goal, and how to get it, the plan.”

Students and their families could discuss appropriate goals for the first trimester and the year. Goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bounded.

An example of a SMART goal is: Joe completed all learning targets in science class during the first trimester, Gilbert said.

“Another mental preparation involves changing routines,” he said.

Summer is often a time of relaxed schedules or perhaps no schedule. Bedtime and wake-up time may be flexible during the summer months. Teens especially love to sleep until noon, but that habit doesn’t work well during the school year.

A week before school starts, students and their families can begin practicing reasonable bedtime and an early wake-up time. They can be more structured around mealtime. Then when school opens the schedule has become more comfortable.

Gilbert concluded his advice on mental preparation with, “Start reading challenging material. It will get the mind jump-started for classwork.”

Emotional preparation

Professional athletes prepare for the season emotionally by creating and nurturing support systems that will help them achieve their goals.

“Begin to wean away from social media,” Gilbert said. “Your time for it will be limited at school.”

Recreational screen time for television and electronic use should be limited to less than two hours per day, he said.

“Find healthy ways to walk away from the drama you may have had over the summer,” he said. “For example, minimize drama by keeping it out of what you share on social media. When others post drama-creating content, realize that you don’t have to feed it.”

As summer draws to a close, exiting a summer job is important for a student’s future.

“Leave your summer job so you will have the opportunity to return next year or so your employer will give you a great recommendation for your next job, a college application or a scholarship application,” Gilbert said.