The life of a student athlete. Getting up early to get to gym, going to classes, running from classes to get to coaching, from coaching to conditioning coaching from coaching in the gym to rugby practice, from practice to studying from study to bed. Being a student athlete is tough. I will share my experience and thoughts about the mind-set of a student athlete, the challenges and the struggle to keep the balance between everything. My experience is not the typical one, I don’t just study and play rugby, I also coach rugby, intern as a conditioning coach and I’m part of this website. Not to say that there is a typical student athlete experience, everyone has many different commitments. This is my version of it. I hope it can give some insight and help those who are and also future student athletes.
It comes to no surprise that to take on these task everyday will require commitment and perseverance. That is exactly how it is. Not to paint a perfect picture, do I get it right? Absolutely not. I learn the hard way. Missing classes, not passing my subject or not have a lot of free time for yourself. You might wonder, why one would do that. This was a question that I thought about for a time now. I mean after all just focusing on studies will be much easier. To be honest if I thought this way I would not have been writing this article and you will not be busy reading it.
The mind-set to get up at 5 in the morning, working to make a successes of various things, to not just be average. Being a student athlete it is about the process. It is about learning from your mistakes, correcting them and building momentum. How do I build momentum? I learn to do the small things right. Transfer what you learn from the one aspect of your life to another.
What are the challenges of a student athlete?
Test, assignment, gym, on field training, matches, coaching, meetings, few hours of sleep and staying healthy this is the challenges that I face. Something that I mostly struggled with when I was still playing provincial rugby is that your university will not understand that you need to attend practices during the day in order to be eligible to play and represent your province on weekends. In fact they will expect you to choose between both rugby and studies. Unfortunately your sport is important to you because you earn money from it and you love what you do. Reading in the newspapers and when you are in school you always hear how important it is to get your degree and people encourage you to do both study and do your sport. As soon as you come to university it is a different story. Well to choose between my studies and sport was never an option because I want to make a successes of both. This was one big challenge that I had to face every day to make time for both my studies and sport. For most athletes their sport is the reason they are at university in the first place. In some cases your sport pays for your studies and in order to keep on studying you must perform on the field to pay your studies. This is the challenges of a student athlete each day. You’ve got to wake up early, be at two different places at one time, manage your workload, say no to going out with friends, go to bed late and repeat. I have no better way to describe it than Richard Sherman did in this video.
How do I balance all my priorities?
Time management is an awesome thing in order to get to everything daily. Planning is key to successfully work through all the things that must be done. Prioritizing your daily tasks and ticking it off as you go along also keeps you focused and inspired. For me it is all about maintaining the balance between relationships, studies, coaching, rugby practice, gym and the website. It is important to be on top of things every day to maintain that balance.
Studies and sport have a reverse relationship with each other:
When the studies take strain I have to ease off on training in order to keep ahead with the workload. Vice versa when my rugby needs focus, I need to train harder in order to get my standards up. Yes I would like to train more or eat healthy everyday but in the end, it is the best I can do at that moment that matters. Being a student athlete is slow process to get your degree and to make it in sport at the same time. It is all about maintaining the balance between sport and your studies. This short clip that inspires me to keep the balance and be good in what you do.
How I have changed through the last four years:
After school rugby was my main focus. That is all that I wanted to do. I believed that I would make a life out of rugby alone. This is not a wrong mind set. I mean this is what all young sportsman in school believe. Through starting studying and still playing rugby on a provincial level it was not easy. You had to perform both on field and drive like a crazy person to get to classes or test. I managed to do it. Something had to give though. I started focusing too much on the rugby and my studies was the one that needed to be sacrificed. At the moment I thought it was the best decision. After losing my provincial contract and getting my studies back on track I have realized that my mind-set has changed through the years. How I think now is different than how I thought in my first year. Being focused both on studies and rugby and maintaining the balance, I can see how I progressed during the years. I realized that it all was a process. Process through trial and error to build experience and momentum.
In the end it is about keeping a balance, the balance is never equal though. It is constantly shifting depending on competitions, tests, injuries, grades. The challenge of being a student athlete is managing this balance.
by Justin Benn