Graduate student… and high performance athlete?!?

Choose. One or the other.  Student OR Athlete.

Sadly, this is still all too common in academia. As a student athlete, my fellow students and colleagues are often shocked and impressed to find out I manage to train twice a day.  Meanwhile, my supervisors ask how much longer I intend to “play” sports, and when I am going to get serious about science. Or I am instructed to completely remove my athletic achievements from my CV for fear that I will be seen as less focused.

All of this is despite the fact that many awards actually encourage and reward extracurricular activities and leadership.

Yet for some reason many mainstream academics seem to have this view that any time spent outside of the lab is time wasted.

There are numerous benefits to being a student athlete.  Student athletes tend to perform better in their careers.  There is also a known correlation between physical fitness and mental fitness. Sports encourage the development of leadership and teamwork skills.  The time spent talking to teammates who are not involved in science, or even just taking a break from thinking science increases your ability to think outside the box.  I could go on and on, but that is not the purpose of this post.

Getting back to science…

8+ hours a day in the lab running experiments (or in the library researching the literature etc),  two practices per day, 6 days a week, plus classes, conferences, and sports competitions.  Needless to say, to successfully manage this sort of schedule without having a nervous breakdown necessitates supreme time management skills.  Plus an understanding of working efficiently.  Without these skills a complete meltdown is certainly imminent!  Important though is the realization that breaks and fun time are essential for mental health and well being.

These same life skills are also invaluable in the workforce.

So why isn’t this further encouraged in graduate school???

Now I’m not saying being a high performance athlete is a good choice for everyone.  Obviously there are drawbacks, such as not being able to go to parties during your competition season, nor having time for 12 hour Netflix marathon.  But employability or productivity certainly aren’t drawbacks.


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