What's up: Pressure is for Tyres and Footballs
An old saying that is banded about when someone insinuates that you are under some sort of pressure is “Pressure is for tyres and footballs”. Like it or not, students across the world do come under some sort of pressure or stress throughout their university life. It is how the student manages and controls these pressures, and those who are involved in sport understand these pressures and accounts for them when preparing for a match, a competition or an event that is important. We have to understand that students have additional workloads outside of their sporting commitments and that ultimately they are there to improve their knowledge and skill base and that sporting success can be a by-product of that.
Throughout their university life, students find themselves under pressure from a range of different sources. It’s how the students deal with these pressures and the support that we give them through our sporting connections which will shape their success in university, but also in their sporting lives.
We are approximately three months in to the academic year. Three months ago there was a new throng of students entering into universities across the world, many of them facing the unknown, as they came from 2nd level education in to the world of higher education. For many this is the first time they have the independence they have always craved, for others they will still live at home but are petrified at the non-spoon feeding approach that lecturers are rumoured to take.
When you look at it like that, you realise that most of these students have not felt the pressures of late night cramming sessions that are all too often associated with Christmas or end of semester exams. These students haven’t consumed countless cans of energy drinks to keep themselves focused on those notes they borrowed from their organised friend, nor have they felt the heartbreak of leaving an examination centre and asking their friends “How did you get on”, only to realise that the answered the question completely wrong. Yet, we still treat these students like everyone else. They are not like everyone else, we have to help them through the massive leap in expectations, and the change of academic learning.
What can we do to support these students from a sporting point of view?
• Don’t put too much pressure on your sport stars. Yes, there are important matches, training sessions, gym session to be done, but if you know that there are no important matches coming up before exam time, considering reducing training sessions or at least do easier sessions.
• Encourage your students to use the services on site in the university, perhaps there are mindfulness sessions that they could join which would relieve some of the stresses they are feeling, or perhaps the students’ union or student association could open some events in the run up to exams. Encourage them to check them out, why not print of the timetable of university events for them?
• Get all the support information from the university, perhaps students don’t know what to do if they feel sick the day of an exam, or that they could get extra time if they meet certain criteria. Arm yourself with the information so you can answer any questions that they might come to you with, rather than having to go look for it when they ask.
• Have you asked your athletes if there is anything you can do for them to help them prepare for their exams? Maybe some players have an exam on an earlier date and will miss some training sessions or maybe they would appreciate a light hearted training session to have a kick-about for fun in the middle of exams. Ask your players what they’d like from you as their coach.
• If you think that one of your athletes is under a lot of pressure as they’re coming towards exams, don’t ignore it. If you hear them say something that makes you think that something isn’t right, ask them about it. It might just have been a throwaway comment but it could be something much deeper and they might be willing to open up to you about it. They’ll respect you looking out for them either way.
• There’s lots of online tools and resources, find ones specific to your country and share them with your players in team WhatsApp groups, on Facebook and encourage your fellow coaches to do the same.
Once the exam season is over, you can all focus your energy on chasing medals, building skill levels and ensuring that as many people are involved in physical activity as possible within your university as possible.
The author Kevin Ronan is Vice Chairperson of Student Sport Ireland the National Governing body for Third Level Sport in Ireland and is also a member of the EUSA Student Commission. Kevin is a graduate of a Bachelor of Business in Managemnt in Tourism and Sport and recently completed a Masters of Business in Advanced Business Practice in Athlone Institute of Technology, Ireland.
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