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In Buffy the Vampire Slayer's third season finale, we get this dialogue from our heroine:

Buffy: I wish I could be a lot of things for you. A great student, a star athlete ... remotely normal.

I'm sure we can all sympathise with Buffy's wish to please her mother, but it makes me wonder...why can't she be a star athlete?

As the Slayer, Buffy is "naturally buff", with strength, agility and reflexes naturally greater than average with little need for her to work out. These attributes would surely be of enormous use to an athlete.

So why didn't she get involved in school athletics?

We saw several times that Principal Snyder gave extensive privileges and excuses to his star athletes. See the swim team getting away with sexual assault in Go Fish, and Snyder coercing Willow into doing Percy's work for him.

We also had several incidents showing the high social status of athletes at Sunnydale High.

Obviously, out of universe Buffy was supposed to be a social outcast struggling to balance school and slaying, but is there a good in-universe reason that she wasn't involved in school athletics?

I don't buy that it would have interfered with her Slaying too much. In fact, it would probably have improved her slaying, with 'practice sessions' providing an excellent cover for slaying duties, and extra support from the faculty reducing her studying stress.

Imagine, for example, if she had taken up martial arts - suddenly not only is she permitted to take time to train in combat, her tendency to respond to situations with violence becomes more understandable and excusable.

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    "I don't buy that it would have interfered with her slaying too much" - It would have interfered with her slaying too much... Or, her slaying would have interfered with her extracurriculars.... – TGnat Apr 10 '17 at 15:32
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    I didn't watch the show much, but in the movie she was a cheerleader. Did they change that? – T.E.D. Apr 10 '17 at 18:48
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    @T.E.D. in the series she tried out for cheerleading, but was under a curse at the time that made her appear drunk, so she didn't qualify. – Werrf Apr 10 '17 at 18:53
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    @T.E.D. - The show largely continues on from the film. At the start of the TV show she's transferred from another school where she was a cheerleader and had a Watcher called Merrick. – Valorum Apr 10 '17 at 19:26
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    "Imagine, for example, if she had taken up martial arts [...] her tendency to respond to situations with violence becomes more understandable and excusable." Oh, geez. Absolutely not. Any modern martial arts teacher attached to a high school is gonna drill into his students that violence is strictly a last resort. If he finds out that a student is using their skills to beat people up, there'll be hell to pay. – Phasma Felis Apr 11 '17 at 9:24
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Buffy can't try out for sports because she's trying to hide her physical prowess from the norms. She seems very keen to keep her two lives (school / slaying) separate and that means not appearing too strong or too athletic.

On top of that, given that her abilities aren't just peak-human but in fact superhuman, unless she was very careful indeed she could accidentally break world records and attract a lot of unwanted press attention to herself. Headlines like "Teenaged California girl runs 100M sprint in 5.2 seconds!!!" are not conducive to a secret identity.

Additionally, Buffy has a great deal of awareness that she's easily goaded and hence tries to actively avoid situations where she might accidentally harm a fellow student.

WILLOW: Don't forget, you're supposed to be a meek little girlie-girl like the rest of us.

BUFFY: Spoil my fun.

...

MISS LITTO: In this situation, bend forward, using your back and shoulders to flip your assailant over and to the ground.

Buffy 'tries' to flip him.

BUFFY: Unh! Mnh!

LARRY: You're turning me on, Summers.

Larry reaches down and GRABS A HANDFUL of Buffy's butt. No more girlie-girl. In the blink of an eye, Buffy GRABS hold of Larry, LIFTS him, and SLAMS him into the mat. Oz looks down at Larry.

Buffy: Phases

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There's also a substantial amount of pressure on her from her Watcher (to spend more time slaying and patrolling) and her own lack of desire to take on additional responsibilities.

GILES: You have a sacred birthright, Buffy. You have been chosen to destroy Vampires, not wave pom-poms at people. As the Watcher, I forbid it.

BUFFY: And you'll be stopping me how?

GILES: Dyeh, uh, well -- by appealling to your common sense, if such a creature exists.

BUFFY: I'll still have time to fight the forces of evil, okay? But I want to have a life. I want to do something normal. Something safe.

Buffy: The Witch

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    @Sethen - As I said before, she's known to be strong but what isn't clear is quite how strong. Joining an athetics team would require her to moderate her strength to a ridiculous degree. To put it another way, what would be the effect if she wasn't paying attention at a track meet and accidentally shaved 3 seconds off the women's 100m sprint record? – Valorum Apr 10 '17 at 17:20
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    @Sethen - For me the bigger issue is that competing athletically will result in attention and provable results, both of which make her secret a bit less secret. – Valorum Apr 10 '17 at 18:11
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    @Joshua, Even in highschool for anything involving more then 2 schools they use more sophisticated timing equipment then stop watches. Even 15 years ago. Source: I ran track/cross country in highschool 15 years ago. – Ryan Apr 10 '17 at 19:11
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    But she's giving herself away frequently anyway; being involved in, say, martial arts would explain how she's able to easily flip Larry. As it is, it's clear that she's got a secret. She behaves like a trained fighter, no matter what; wouldn't it make sense to have a cover for that? – Werrf Apr 10 '17 at 19:16
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    If she was a star athlete, the coaches and school would rely on her to go to all the meets because she was one to the best. It would be difficult to turn it down and it would be demanding. – Evan Carslake Apr 10 '17 at 19:23
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Imagine, for example, if she had taken up martial arts - suddenly not only is she permitted to take time to train in combat, her tendency to respond to situations with violence becomes more understandable and excusable.

Sure, but are martial arts "school athletics"? A quick look at the California Interscholastic Federation shows wrestling, swimming, football, etc. but not martial arts. It might be different in (for example) Japan, but in the US a school-based martial arts program is rare. Martial arts programs are privately run.

What happens when Buffy gets distracted and hits someone just a bit too hard? Broken ribs or other bones. Possibly even a broken neck.

What happens when Buffy sees a vampire/demon/whatever and abandons the team to slay? I'm not so worried about sports interfering with slaying, but slaying would almost certainly have interfered with sports. How would she explain herself? Yes, she could explain beating up the occasional groper, but she'd have additional problems to explain. Like punching through a concrete wall when some prankster told her it was made of wood.

Note what actually happened when Buffy tried to join the cheerleading squad, she has a curse cast on her and loses her spot. Unlike martial arts, cheerleading is a competitive sport in California schools.

We can assume that something would have happened regardless of sport. Contact sports could cause severe, even fatal injuries. Non-contact sports could accidentally turn into contact sports. Or maybe she goes to kick a soccer ball and deflates it. She rips off the backboard of the basketball hoop. Something would have gone wrong so that she wouldn't have participated in whatever form of athletics.

Out of universe, Buffy is a comic book hero. With great power comes great responsibility. It's hard to make sports the responsible choice.

All that said, I think that a female comic book hero who competes in martial arts could be fun. I'm thinking of something like a female version of Caine in Kung Fu. No super power, just lots of training. In such a story, the martial arts would be part of the narrative.

In Buffy, it would have been a distraction from the main story. If she had really wanted to explain her actions, she could have said that she had past experience in martial arts. She wouldn't have to do it during high school.

I'm not sure that training in hand-to-hand where she had to constantly hold back to avoid hurting her sparring partner would have helped her that much. Particularly when her coach wouldn't have known that she was holding back. There were reasons why she did most of her sparring with Angel, who could survive almost anything. And who was himself both strong and fast enough to challenger her.

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In addition to the answers already posted, Buffy simply never had any time for school athletics during her three year stint at Sunnydale High.

Bad Eggs (s2e12), gives us some insight into what a high school student and Chosen One's Monday through Friday might look like. Here's part of the script from Act 3 of this episode. Buffy is returning from patrol:

INT. BUFFY'S BEDROOM - NIGHT. CLOSE ON CLOCK. It's 2:42 AM.

And a few lines later, Joyce gives us this insight:

JOYCE: Now. School ends at 2:30. I want you to go to the library at 2:33 and study until I pick you up there at 5:30. Understood?

So Buffy's schedule might look something like this:

7:30am-2:30pm: Attend class.

2:30pm-5:30pm: After school training sessions with Giles. May also be doing homework, hanging out with Xander and Willow, or doing research on a big bad.

5:30pm-9:00pm: Commute home. Eat dinner and converse with Mom. During this time Buffy may also study (she did get in to Northwestern after all) or go to the Bronze.

9:00pm-2:30am: Patrol. We know that this isn't a nightly occurrence while in high school (see quote shortly), but I feel it's safe to assume she patrols at least a few times per week.

BUFFY: And then this whole thing with Dracula, it's made me face up to some stuff.. I've changed so much since I first became the slayer. I'm still changing. Ever since we did that spell that called on the first slayer… I've been going out a lot. Every night…

GILES: Patrolling.

From s5e1, Act 4 script.

2:30am-6:00am: Sleep.

6:00am-7:30am: Prepare for school.

This schedule leaves no time for after school activities which typically occur, well, after school (2:30pm-5:00pm). Even if Buffy wanted to squeeze all her training, studying, and socializing into her weekends so that she could partake in school sports on 4 hours of sleep per night, Buffy would often have to miss team meets because she's busy investigating something spooky or stopping an apocalypse.

All quotes were obtained by googling "Buffy scripts" and navigating to http://www.buffyworld.com/buffy/

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    She did feel that she could fit cheerleading into her schedule. Even assuming that she only attends the minimum of training and games, that's still a reasonable level of commitment. – Valorum Apr 13 '17 at 7:30
  • @Valorum True, but at this point in the series, Buffy wanted nothing to do with the slayer gig. Two episodes earlier, she was avoiding her watcher. Plus she just started at a new school and hasn't quite figured out her daily workload yet so she may have overscheduled herself. If she had stayed on the cheer team, she would have missed her first game trying to stop Amy's mom. And when you miss games, you get booted from the team. One of the recurring themes throughout the series is duty interfering with personal life. Scheduling conflicts is one way to address that theme. – Sethen Apr 13 '17 at 13:15
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She is a superhero, and like most superheroes, she dabbled in sports, (cheerleading) just like Spider-Man dabbled in wrestling. It was really her lack of interest, her duties, and her self-righteousness that stopped her. She was smart, but had little time to study civics cause she was studying demons. She had difficulty keeping a job and dating, and had next to no social life outside of the Scoobies. Also the competitions would interfere with all the Apocalypses.

  • Can you provide any sources of her cheerleading, or to support any of her other claims? (It's not that I doubt you, it will simply help attract more attention to your answer!) – Edlothiad Apr 11 '17 at 19:05
  • Buffy was a cheerleader at the start of the original movie. I don't have any cites to the TV series. – Codes with Hammer Apr 17 '18 at 19:50

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