Balancing academics and athletics

By Chloe DaCosta

As a 2015 William A. Dart Memorial University Scholar, I know firsthand how Dart Scholars constantly strive for academic success, while also being involved in demanding extracurricular activities.

I went to Marymount Manhattan College in New York City in the United States where I studied dance, body science and motion, and biology. I’m now studying osteopathy at the British College of Osteopathic Medicine. I balanced my intense schedule by dedicating mornings and nights to dance and all hours in between to science.

It often required hustle. On campus, the dance studios are 10 city blocks from where the labs are located and I had only 10 minutes in between classes to get from one to the next. In order to make it on time, I had to sprint in my tights through the streets of New York and morph into a whole new person with a lab coat and PPE ready to go.

From the beginning of my studies, dance was incorporated into my curriculum, which helped my schedule work for me. The balancing act came when I had to focus on prioritising self-care as it was difficult to find time to listen to both my body’s physical needs and my brain’s demands to constantly ensure I was on top of my studies.

Despite the long hours, I was grateful for the active release that dance gave me from sitting and standing in class all day. Plus, studying both subjects allowed me to learn biomechanical concepts in anatomy and apply them to my techniques in the studio, helping to ensure I was working safely to prevent injury.

Common challenge
A couple of my fellow Dart Scholars have also experienced a heavy load of athletics and academics, including Florence Allan, who has been balancing schoolwork with sailing for as long as she can remember. A 2016 William A. Dart University Scholar, Florence studied politics, philosophy and economics at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom and is now starting the legal conversion course at the University of Bristol.

“It’s definitely more challenging in university because I was used to having someone plan my days for me,” she says, noting that her parents, teachers and coaches told her when to be at sailing and when to be at school. “Now I have to do all of that for myself, which was an adjustment at first, but I actually much prefer to structure my days how I see fit.”

Focusing on organisational skills has been a top priority for Florence, who is passionate about sailing and doing well in her classes, so she always finds time to balance the two. She outlines her term in advance to know exactly when to focus on assignments, training and competitions as well as making sure she has some free time for socialising and the gym.

When 2018 William A. Dart Memorial University Scholar Jade Wilkinson was recruited to the varsity tennis team at Vassar College in New York, she found it challenging to change from her previous programme at IMG Academy in Florida, where she had a clear split between academics and tennis, to a new schedule of switching between the gym, tennis and academics multiple times per day.

“I learned that instead of having long periods of time to do my classwork, I had to utilise the short time between classes and other commitments to get more work done,” she says. She quickly got used to studying in non-traditional environments and in shorter amounts of time.

Dominic Dyer, the 2017 William A. Dart Memorial University Scholar, spent the past three years studying economics at Columbia University in New York City while competing on the track team. While Dom expected to continue the balancing act for his senior year, restrictions from COVID-19 caused him to take his final year online. “It certainly wasn’t easy trying to balance running 95 miles a week and the academic rigours of an Ivy League School," he says. "But I wouldn't want it any other way, as at the end of the day, running is my passion."

Dominic offers this advice to incoming college athletes: “Don’t sacrifice academics for athletics," he says. "Even if a school is offering you a spot on their team or a scholarship, don’t go unless the school is the right academic fit for you.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of the Camana Bay Times.