Commitment: Defining A Student Athlete

We’ve come to the end of the holidays and by definition, we’ve lost our last chance to sleep in, relax in front of screens – texting with friends on What’s App, binge series viewing or rewatching our favorite movie for the tenth time.  And then there’s delicious holiday food that has been our staple for the last month – pizza with extra cheese, ice cream with lots of chocolate sauce, that really greasy fried chicken and chips.  In the back of your mind was a small nagging voice, the one who says “Maybe I should get up and go take a run?”  or “Those planks and core work I was planning to do to fit…. nah, it can wait for school.”  There was no coach screaming at the sidelines and no meet coming up this next weekend, so it could all be put off for another week.  Or can it?

SSN is constantly covering the world of high school sport and also working with those who wish to pursue the life of being a student athlete at university, taking both their academics and their sports to a higher level.  But what really defines a true student athlete?  I would sum it up in one word: Commitment.

Zimbabwean high school sport calendars are designed to accommodate multi-sport athletes.  Cross country is crammed into the first three weeks of the year, followed by a half term of track and field.  Rugby and hockey and soccer take over second term with swimming and cricket following just before exams.  As a result, those who reach a high level in a sport often following their schools’ calendars, often neglect year round training and don’t reach their potential.  Think of the serious cross country athlete who after half term in February never races again that year.  Or the high jumper, who after hitting the mattress at nationals in March doesn’t jump again for nine months until the next January.

The true test of a serious student athlete is commitment.  How committed are you to your sport?  Is your passion for it strong enough to make you your own trainer when there isn’t a coach in sight?  You don’t need a subscription to a gym or a set a fancy weights to work out.  A set of trainers and some serious determination can do.  Does the thought of excelling in your sport drive you to think holistically about being a student athlete, one who excels in school and on the field, is a true team player, who tracks her own progress against herself?

Here’s a short quiz for you.  Be honest with yourself: To how many of the following ten questions would you honestly answer YES?

  1. Do you train for your sport year round, no matter the dates of its season?
  2. Do you balance your books and your sport to be equally motivated and competitive in both?
  3. Do you compete against yourself, to better your own times and your own distances, your throws and your  passes, rather than against others, to be the best athlete you can be?
  4. Are you more concerned with the place you got in a race or the time you achieved?
  5. Do you put yourself on a holiday training schedule, not because a coach or parent told you to, but because you want to stay fit?
  6. Do you love your sport?  Is running or swimming or playing your sport of choice what keeps you motivated, the prize at the end of the work you have to get done?
  7. Do you do your best to eat a balanced and healthy diet, to keep junk food, fizzy drinks and candy to a minimum?
  8. Do you use the Internet to read up on latest training and fitness techniques?
  9. Do you record your own stats – times for your workouts and races or stats from games?
  10. How many days of this December holiday have you worked out or trained for your sport?

We won’t give you a grading scale, but perhaps your honest answers will help you determine where you are and how you can improve your commitment as a student athlete in 2016.

Now back to school…. we all deserved to relax, to eat our favorite foods and laugh with our families and friends. As we start a new school year, full of exciting sports events to come, we ask all of the student athletes out there to think for a moment:  To what extent are you committed?