Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Student Athlete Balance

     I can actually say this week I finally I worked myself into exhaustion.   To recover and recharge I’ve invoked a weekend of doing the nothing.  Its noon and I’m literally laying in bed in my PJ’s blogging.  If it weren’t for my Dad’s birthday today, I’d probably try and lay in bed all day.  My days are long and my nights are short.  These days, I am up by 7am and shamefully in bed after 2am.  But, that’s about to change after this weekend!  I’m returning to an optimal sleeping pattern.

     The cause of my sleep deprivation can be linked to my need to be a superhero.  I’m currently, working on my dissertation (at an important phase of the process)  while simultaneously training at a world class level.  However, the work I’ve been doing in both areas have been quite time consuming.  I’ve finally completed the first 3 chapters of my dissertation (in their entirety) and I’m finally exiting this GP phase of training and entering max strength + power conversion phase… Thank GOD!!!!  I must be crazy!  Two years ago when I was completing my comprehensive exam while also preparing to qualify for the Olympic Games, I thought I experienced self inflicted torture.  Seems like I’ve been getting a taste of that lately!  I can honestly say, up to that point in my life I had never worked so hard academically.

     A comprehensive exam is essentially a series of written and oral exams on one’s subject area, whereby, a student must demonstrate a deepened understand of the material.  My doctoral program is a traditional format.  In my case I had 4 written exams in the area of statistics, goal & motivation, sports psychology and coaching & motor development.  The breadths of these exams were infinite, with no guided direction but simply the requirement of understanding the research and knowledge that encompassed each area.  Once I was able to survive the written examination, I than had a 2 hour oral exam conducted by my 5 committee professors, where any question related to each subject area could be asked.  I think I aged by 20 years in the process…. If you fail your comprehensive exams, you are only allowed one more time to journey through the grueling process or you literally fail out of the program.   For those of us who successfully make it through this process, we now adorn the title of PhD Candidate.  The final step for completion is your dissertation.  I’m now in this phase of my study. 

     Probably the one question I get regularly is “how much longer do you have to go till your done?”  The answer is – I don’t know!  I’m hoping sometime between September and October, however, I’m wise enough to know that sometimes research where you are depending on subjects can be merciless and can derail your plans.  At times it seems like an endless process – there is always something to do… and there is so much writing and reading involved.   I’ve chosen to explore “how athletes make the leap from good to great in athletics.”  We all know the Tiger Woods and the Roger Federas who have always been phenomenal.  But, I’m interested in how a Joe Blow who has been average for most of their career all of a suddenly become a Michael Jordan…. And more impressively when they are a mature athlete.   It’s a pretty exciting topic and the first of its kind, but certainly not an easy study. 

     I’m extremely fortunate with the support I have at Michigan State University from my advisor Dr. Deb Feltz to my committee members and the College of Education.  Being a professional athlete while simultaneously being a PhD student has required some flexibility and adaptability of the program to my needs.  While I may complain of sleep deprivation as one minor side effect to this dual pursuit, it is so worth it!  I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.  I am able to benefit from my own knowledge ON and off the track.  And in the end, I’m creating a future for myself that will sustain me long after my track career has ended.

Education may be the greatest Power any superhero can have,


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