Why you should play, run, or swim on through university

I am a varsity athlete from Australia, a country without a university/college sporting league of any kind.

I hope my perspective on why I believe the opportunity to compete as a varsity athlete in North America should be taken with both hands if you’re lucky enough to be offered a spot on a team.

Perhaps you have a friend or family member weighing up their athletic options? I urge you to encourage them to play, run, or swim on.

In no particular order, here are some reasons why making the most of whatever athletic gifts you (or someone you know) have is the way to go in my eyes. No matter what level of competition you’re at, or how much scholarship money is impacting your decision, make sure to consider all the benefits.

1. Teammates

The majority of the Australian population, myself included, love sport. Many of them live and breathe it, yet Australian universities offer nothing comparible to the level of competition found at North American schools through their national sport governing bodies – U Sports in Canada and the National Collegiate Athletic Association  (NCAA) in the United States.

Swimming, my sport of choice, places great emphasis on the individual, yet when I first journeyed overseas to Canada, without much of a clue about what to expect, I was amazed by how close teammates become in varsity programs, whether they participated in team or individual sports.

In North America it’s much more popular to move away from home and live on campus, or close to it. The sheer amount of time you spend with your teammates fosters lifelong relationships that would never materialise otherwise – relationships that non-athletes simply don’t have the opportunity to build.

Sombrio Beach with team mates

2. How good could you be?

It’s a question that countless athletes have left unanswered, only to be left with the dreaded “How good could I have been?”

Whether you want to milk every last ounce of physical and mental energy to try and answer this question, or you are there to train here and there but maintain your buzzing social life at the expense of athletic development, you are still going to get closer to finding out how good you could be by being a student athlete.

3. Cool uniforms and other stuff

Clean, crisp, organised, pretty uniforms. They bring a smile to most of us, and I’m willing to bet that somewhere today, an ex athlete who graduated a few decades ago will stumble across what is now a well worn and battered tracksuit jacket, jersey, swim cap, or running top and have a tear brought to their eye as they are overwhelmed with nostalgia and pride. Give yourself the opportunity to have something to look back on.

4. Sport makes you smarter

Athletes tend to have better GPAs than their classmates. I understand the temptation to let academics take over, but many athletes have become ex-athletes after falling into the trap of “I need more time.”

Even if academic work is sometimes hasty and tough to complete, I believe that one can be their best physically and mentally if they apply themselves properly. That doesn’t mean staying up late at night and grinding out assignments at 3am to the detriment of your recovery for sport and sharpness of mind.

It’s possible to look after yourself properly and excel at both, no matter which people tell you otherwise, many of whom haven’t themselves been athletes. Time management is a skill that takes years to master, and has lifelong benefits, but can only be mastered by rising to a challenging schedule that requires discipline. Beware of the lethargy and time wasting associated with an inactive body.

“In the morning if we can energize ourselves with physical activities, then we can accomplish so many things during the rest of the day. That is why I say sports and physical fitness are of supreme importance. If we neglect the physical and let the body become weak, then the mind also becomes weak.”

– Sri Chinmoy

5. Your future

There’s no time like the present, but your future must come into consideration right now. I know many athletes have given away their sporting careers to focus more on their academic future and potential careers. This makes a lot of sense for some, especially in Australia, but in North America there are systems in place that mean you don’t have to be the next national Olympic hero to have a rewarding athletic career.

The skills gained during an athletic career in university in an environment that supports athletics are too good to sacrifice, professors and employers realise this too most of the time.

I hope this helps!

Chris

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