So you’re an athlete*? And currently thinking whether you can balance sport with your degree; whether you’ll be able to enjoy #unilyf while training all the time? The answer is YES. A very strong resounding yes – you can, and should, combine sport with studying. And here are the reasons why:
Ever heard of that thing called procrastination? No, becasue you’re an athlete. Because you have zero spare time. When you have 3 hours of training a day, you learn how to be efficient and just get things done. You plan around training; you make the most of that spare 2 hours and finish half an assignment. That is valuable. Also, I would advise writing out a ‘study/training schedule’.
Sport is a fantastic way to meet people, especially at Uni. If you’re really serious and an elite athlete, say yes to networking events! Even if they are predominantly held by men’s sporting clubs – attend! And it’s totally okay to be the only girl in the room – talk about your sporting and academic pursuits. You’ll find there are a number of serious professionals (especially in business) that used to be big in sport. They are fantastic contacts and could be super useful later on. Get their details and contact them later on.
Being an athlete looks great on your resume. It says a lot more than “I am good at sport”. It says you are dedicated, resilient, hard working and willing to make sacrifices.
Life after Sport
Sorry to tell you but unless you are able to make it big, create a very valuable personal brand (i.e personal Nike sponsorships) and get paid millions, you will need to work after sport. And although female sport is taking off (FINALLY), you still won’t be paid like a professional footballer (not yet anyway). The fact is sport has an expiry date. Doing a degree alongside will give you options after sport. And don’t worry about ‘falling behind your peers’ in your degree or work experience opportunities, being good at sport is enough of a distinguishing factor to get you an interview! Once you get the interview, check out our tips here.
I’ve spoken to many athletes who say they play/perform better when they have something else to think about. If they focus too much on their performance and over analyse, they do not get the best results. Studying might be boring sometimes (sorry) but it gives you something else to think about when you’re not training or competing.
Sometimes sport or study will have to be given priority. When there is a big competition – focus on sport. When exams are upon you – focus on study. It’s a balancing act. But one that will pay off in the long run.
*I say athlete, but this could apply to any extra-curricular activity – for example, volunteering at a local charity 3 times a week; or you could be a ballet dancer.
HEAR ADVICE FROM ELITE ATHLETES:
AUSTRALIAN WOMEN’S HOCKEY PLAYER
Let me introduce myself… I’m Anna Flanagan, 24 years old and an Australian Women’s Hockey Player. I have a Bachelor of Humanities (Journalism major), a Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Studies and Certificate 3 and 4 in Fitness.
My job in a nutshell… I train 6 days a week and am employed full time by Hockey Australia. We train upto 20 hours a week, not including team meetings, physio and massage appointments. I can be traveling from anywhere between 2 to 6 months of the year playing tournaments around the world, as well as fulfilling sponsor commitments that also take me around the world.
Skills you’ll need… As a member of a team, being able to work with others to problem solve, give and receive feedback and perform under pressure are all key elements to be a Hockeyroo. Have the resilience to overcome setbacks, such as injury or poor play is crucial to improve as a player.
This job is for you if you like… Do this ‘job’ if you like a challenging and competitive environment, and are willing to do anything that will help you become the best hockey player you can.
Avoid this job if you dislike… Don’t do this job if you do not like having a schedule. Being a Hockeyroo means your life decisions are all based on performance and looking after your body. If you want a flexible job then Hockey is not for you.
Top 3 moments of my job…
- When I first made the Australian squad and fulfilled a childhood dream;
- Winning 2 Commonwealth Games Gold medals; and
- Becoming an Olympian!
My advice to you…. It takes self belief and determination. You have to be willing to give up certain aspects of your life to follow this path. It is not easy but extremely rewarding.
AFL PLAYER AND MEDICAL SCIENCE STUDENT
Hey gal, this is me… My name is Nicola Barr, and I am 20 years old studying a Bachelor of Medical Science at Sydney Uni. I was born in Melbourne and moved around heaps as a young kid (Malaysia, America, Ireland, Singapore, Dubai) and then ended up in Sydney when I was 14 years old – and I haven’t left!
My deal is… When I was living overseas I used to do lots of running – my favourite was long distance, and I was lucky enough to travel to heaps of exciting places to run like Doha, Kuwait and even Egypt! After moving back to Sydney I picked up soccer and played at club level then when I was 16 started playing for Manly United in the premier league division which was awesome. I loved it, but then half way through that same year I started playing AFL, and over the years soccer slowly started to fizzle out and I am now focusing on AFL which I love.
Where my sport took me… I have been so lucky with my sport as it has given me so many opportunities over the years. Living overseas was amazing and I look back now wishing I had recognised how special those sporting trips to places like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Doha and Egypt had been – I was so young that I think I almost took it for granted! Since moving back to Sydney, I didn’t do as much travel until I started playing AFL. Playing AFL, I have travelled a lot to Canberra for various tournaments at state level, and then have played in places like Adelaide on the Adelaide Oval and Melbourne. Recently I was lucky enough to travel to Melbourne to do a shoot for the National Women’s League promo, which was an amazing experience as I met women AFL players who I really look up to.
What I loved about it…. My favourite thing about AFL is the life long friends I have made along the way. For me, the girls and women playing AFL are all inspiring, as they are changing the way a sport is looked at in Australia. I think it’s a really empowering sport for all females, and it builds characters that I find really inspiring. In no other sport that I have played have I experienced such camaraderie. Both on and off the field you put your body on the line for your team mates and this creates really solid friendships.
The challenges were… There have been manly challenges in my experience of playing women’s AFL, but none compare to those women who were the pioneers for the sport. Women’s AFL has really taken off in the last few years, and I consider myself really lucky to be playing at a time where it has become increasingly accepted. The announcement of the National Women’s League is incredible and I almost still can’t believe it.
Of course, there are those who still do not support women playing this sport… “it’s a man’s sport”, “you can’t tackle as hard as the boys”, “why are you kicking the footy? Only boys can do that”. However, those sort of comments in my experience have been minimal, and I have received an unbelievable amount of support to play this sport, so I consider myself very lucky.
What I pursued alongside my sport… Alongside my sport, I am now studying a Bachelor of Medical Science at Sydney Uni, and also do casual part time work, currently working at a local café as a waitress, occasionally working as a receptionist at my local Physio, and coaching various sports.
The balance was… Every day I really do find the balance of playing sport as well as working and studying quite difficult. However, the main thing I have learnt over many years of trying to achieve the balance, is to focus on the single thing that you’re doing at the time you’re doing it. So, if I’m at footy training, that is what I’m doing and everything else just escapes my mind. This has been a huge factor in keeping my stress levels low. Another thing I think I learnt from my school years, particularly during my HSC, was that the busier I was the more efficient I have to be when studying – and that was never a bad thing!
And this is where I am now… I am currently half way through my degree, and am living at home, training for footy about 5 times a week and playing on the weekends. I am really happy with how everything is going, and with the draft for the National Women’s League coming up in October, I am really looking forward to working on everything I need to in order to become drafted to an AFL team.
This is where I (think) I am going… At the moment, the plan is to work as hard as I can to become drafted and play professional AFL in the National Women’s League. However, in saying this, I am really looking forward to doing well in my current degree, and travelling when I can. I love to travel, and I think it’s not only a great way to gain knowledge, but the break it gives you also helps you to maintain that focus with playing a professional sport.
My advice to anyone pursuing a pathway like mine…. enjoy everything you’re doing while you’re doing it. If you’re a busy person like myself, that is awesome because you get to experience and do so many different things which I count myself lucky for. But, being busy can be stressful. So, I would say the main thing is to focus on those things you are doing while you’re doing them so that you get 110% out of them, and also make sure that the things you’re doing are the things you want to be doing! No point in doing something that you don’t love – otherwise it’s just a waste of time.
ELITE BASKETBALL PLAYER AND ENGINEERING / SCIENCE STUDENTS
Hey gal, this is me…. Kathryn but most people call me Krendell! I am 22 and studying a Bachelor of Engineering and Science at the University of Sydney.
My deal is… I am a student athlete here at USyd. My majors are in biomedical engineering and computer science. When I am not studying you’ll find me on the basketball court. I play for the Sydney Uni Flames in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL). I also have a variety of jobs that keep me busy, as a tutor, receptionist and basketball coach.
How I got here… I grew up in Canberra and started playing basketball when I was 9. I immediately fell in love with the sport as it put my height to good use! I continued to play throughout high school where I was selected to attend various Australian Junior Camps. I started training with the Canberra Capitals when I was 17.
I was a bit of a nerd in school and took courses in specialist math, chemistry, English and legal studies. I studied hard and finished Year 12 with a decent ATAR. I chose to come to the University of Sydney as they had a great balance of sport and academics. It allowed me to play basketball in the national league while studying my interests in engineering and IT.
My day looks like…. I normally wake up early and head straight to the gym to do my weights program. After weights I have class for four hours or so and spend my afternoons catching up on study. Most evenings I would either be at training or work. By the time I get home I am exhausted so I tune out with a couple of episodes of whatever’s good on Netflix!
The challenges are… Managing my time is definitely my greatest challenge. My week fills up pretty quickly so I am quite good at keeping my calendar up to date. I am a dedicated list maker and try to complete all of my assignments as early as I can.
My greatest achievement is… I was fortunate enough to represent Great Britain in their National Basketball team back in 2014. I lived in the UK for two months while taking the occasional trip to play in Italy, Russia, Macedonia and Belgium. Academically, I work hard to maintain a high distinction average. During the summer of 2015-16 I completed a 3-month internship with Google. I worked on a software engineering project at the coolest office in the world.
The toughest setback i’ve had… Coming back from my second knee reconstruction has been my toughest challenge. It came just after I returned from Great Britain and I was at the top of my game. Unfortunately, injuries are part of sport, so I used twelve months of rehab to focus on other areas of my life such as my friends, family and academics. I came out of that year more determined and mentally tough.
My ultimate goal(s) are… I would love to represent GB again, maybe at the next Commonwealth Games. And I hope to finish uni with a job that I enjoy. However my real goal in life is just to be happy.
My advice to younger girls is… Very few people know exactly what they want to do when they leave school. I still have no idea what is around the corner for me. But I strongly believe the best thing you can do is to try as many experiences and take all the opportunities that come your way. Sometimes you work out pretty quickly that it may not be your thing but at least you can cross that off your list and try something else!