Sport and study: a winning combination

Victoria Bryne interviews several students about how they juggle their academic and sporting careers

Photo by Erica Robinson for Trinity News

  What is it about sport and study that, when correctly mixed together, serve for a winning combination? A huge amount of focus, organisation and dedication are required to balance sport and academics effectively. With around 50 sporting clubs in Trinity, it is no wonder that many students are combining the two. These students are excelling in their respective courses while at the same time picking up All-Ireland titles, county medals, personal bests and enough cups to host a tea party.

It is evident across the board that to excel at sport and study, the same level of dedication and motivation must be applied to each. James Guinness, who plays senior inter-county football with Down, claims that “if you can bring the same level of commitment to both you can achieve success, as they both require huge amounts of time and work”. Guinness, who studies Dentistry in Trinity, adds that the lifestyle required to succeed in sport can also be likened with the mindset needed to do well in college.

Guinness, captain of last year’s Down Under-21s team, also warns how tough it is to fit in hours of study alongside training schedules. He believes that sport instils focus and a desire to achieve in players. “I’m not sure I’d say I wouldn’t have the same drive to succeed in school without sport but I think that when you’re motivated to succeed on the field you can carry that motivation to other aspects of life such as college.”

Emma Louise Nolan is chairperson of Trinity’s Ladies Gaelic Football Team. She believes that sport has taught her how to prioritise and be organised. Juggling sport and study is “both a skill and an advantage as it teaches one to work well under pressure which is vital when you have competing commitments”.

Jack Dunne, who secured a contract with the Leinster Rugby Academy and who has represented Ireland at Under-20 level most certainly agrees. He achieved an impressive 625 points in the Leaving Cert and received the Naughton Scholarship. According to Dunne, “to succeed in sport, discipline is everything and you can definitely bring those same values with you to your studies”.

Aine Haberlin, a past sports scholar, has had many successes playing inter-county football with Laois for many years. She has secured an All-Ireland medal and was also on the victorious Trinity Ladies team that won the Giles Cup. An aspiring solicitor, Haberlin acknowledges the major role sport has played in allowing her to succeed in her chosen field. In her opinion, “you make much better use of your time and prioritise things. When you have a block of study to do, you can really work for those few hours as you can look forward to training with your friends at the end of it”. Sport not only disciplines one to study, but also acts as a motivator to get the work done.

Megan Glynn, a first year Medicine student from Galway, is no stranger to the struggle of combining sport and study. With an impressive collection of seven All-Ireland football medals, it is very evident that Glynn has in fact mastered the art of juggling the two. “Playing sport cut into the amount of time I could spend studying, so I had to make sure that I was concentrated and motivated to work in a shorter space of time than I normally would have.”

Peter O’Shea, who came first place for Javelin in the Under-23 National Championships in June, recognises the difficulty with which sports people juggle the two. He studies nursing and so in first year completed a ten week placement. “I was getting up before 6am four days a week, including three nine hour shifts and one 13 hour shift. I had to balance work, rest and training in Santry or Irishtown which was a 30-45 minute bus journey away.”

Like O’Shea, Aine Haberlin commented on the struggle of combining training and college work. “To be honest that was one of the hardest parts of college. From a time perspective, certain months felt like they were completely football filled. You would just have to be clever with your time and make sure that when exams were coming, you had cleared time in your schedule to study or vice versa for big matches or tournaments.” Sport has taught O’Shea that through hard work and consistency results will come, be that in sport or in college work.

When it comes to juggling the two, lecturers and friends play a big role. Dunne confesses that with coursework and training it can get hectic at times. “Some of the lecturers are very understanding and give you a hand where they can. My friends in college are always happy to help so if I’m ever stuck I can go to them.” Again the idea of friends and teammates helping out was voiced by Nolan. “It is great to be part of a team that encourages you academically and understand that sometimes you can’t make that training session.”

Megan Glynn recognises the necessity of organisation. “Being organised was the way I juggled both football and study. Setting timetables of what I needed to get done each week for study so it wouldn’t all pile up on me at the end of the year was vital. Knowing when my football matches were on was also important so if there was a test on the next day I would have all my study done before the match as I knew I’d be too tired after to do it.” Glynn has realised the value of sport in getting a break from study and de-stressing. “Sport gives you a refreshing break from the books and I feel ten times better studying after clearing my head at training.”

Equally, sport has taught Jack Dunne a great deal, including a philosophy in which he shares with the coach who introduced him to it: “Sport doesn’t build character, it reveals it.”

Sport and academics, although difficult to combine at times do in fact go hand in hand. Sport instils dedication, focus and a motivation to succeed within sportspeople. These characteristics prove invaluable in education and would thus explain how many of those who juggle sport and study excel at both.

Victoria Byrne

Victoria Byrne is a current Deputy Sports Editor of Trinity News. She is a Senior Fresh Law and German student.