It’s a Saturday and I’m parked at the coffee shop with my close friend Erica doing homework. This is a familiar sight. Usually after practices, I hurry/rush home to shower, eat dinner and head to one of our various favorite coffee shops to get some work done. Admittedly, my transition back to school has been a little slow. The last time I delved so heavy in my studies was back in May, and now I’m trying to get the wheels in motion.
I feel very fortunate of my situation. I have an amazing advisor (Dr. Deb Feltz) and Dissertation Committee. They’ve been understanding of my athletic pursuits and incredibly supportive. Only recently, have I come to realize how fortunate I am.
A few weeks ago I attended the AthletesCAN forum, and talking with peer athletes in other sports, I really came to understand their difficulties of dually pursuing school and sport (especially for winter and team sport athletes). Where my competitive season is mainly during the summer months, when school is out, many other sports have a competitive season that runs during the months that school is in session. So, athletes who must travel across the world preparing for World Cup and such are not so able to pursue school jointly. And for those who are, they may have to stretch their time to graduating over a much longer period.
It is a difficult road for one to pursue their passion in sport and want to pursue academics, especially if the program is not supportive! Sometimes this can rob sports of incredible athletes, and schools of phenomenal students. Moreover, for the athlete that chooses to pursue their passion of sport (only offered during this short window of their life) they can be penalized when they try to transition into the real world. Minimal work experience and education can leave alternatives limited.
Sometimes I think some people do not recognize amateur sports (especially at the elite level) as a job. But, it is! Athletes are out there training similar to the hours of most jobs, while required to perform A+ when called upon. To be successful in our jobs as athletes we must be diligent, committed, have good time management, with the ability to focus and multitask. We are hard workers and don’t know the meaning of giving up. We breathe resiliency and knowing how to perform under high stress, all the while being viewed under a microscope by arm chair critics. Definitely, transferable skills in any realm of life. Are these not valuable qualities?
And yes, while I may be a doctoral student, I really am of the position that school isn’t for everyone. There are different ways one can learn. The important thing is that you are learning, continually through life. And all the degrees in the world do not make you a better person, especially if you lack virtuous qualities… at least I believe.
The flexibility in my program, has allowed me to take courses at a convenient pace. While I may not have as many publications as my peers, my contribution and progression through my degree are accounted on other merits. I’m never given more than I can handle, and at times when I am perhaps too overzealous, I have an advisor who does a reality check with me. I am grateful, and realize I’m in a rare situation. Thank you Michigan State University and the Department of Kinesiology!