Perdeby took a look at academic challenges facing UP’s sportsmen and women.
For individuals like Natalie Esteves, life is anything but routine. Captaining the TuksSport Women’s Hockey side, as well as playing an integral role in the SA women’s u/23 side, this hockey protégé’s commitments to club and country are quite extensive. While most students have a start-of-semester ritual consisting of timetable restructuring and buying textbooks, Esteves is spending her time on training camps, as well as at local and international tournaments. Her almost nonstop sporting engagements are all the more impressive considering that she is also a full-time Law student. “I think the time we have is limited and often you are studying and learning while exhausted”, said Esteves when asked about problems she has had to confront as a student-athlete. “There are extended periods away from class due to competitions; it’s hard to juggle the struggle of academic demands with the reality of having to play sport at the highest level”. Esteves’ feelings concerning the difficulties juggling athletic and academic commitments are echoed by fellow student-athlete Kyle Melville.
Melville is also a Law student and has been a Premiere League cricketer for UP for over four years. Melville agrees that dealing with the mental and physical demands of higher education and high performance sport simultaneously can be a tough task. “Finding the balance between your degree and your sport, allocating enough time to achieve your academic goals as well as to ensure that you perform at the top of your respective sport is, for me, the toughest challenge”.
However, both Melville and Esteves agree that UP does its best to cater for the unique requirements of individuals who, in a way, serve as its ambassadors when competing for UP. “TuksSport always steps in and advocates for [athletes] when it comes to helping make up for missed [work]” says Esteves. In terms of dealing with stigma surrounding student athletes, Esteves believes more needs to be done to combat prevailing perceptions. “Unfortunately we live in a world where people assume that sportsmen and women are ‘dumb’ and study ‘easier’ degrees. I think we need to work towards stripping away this false perception across all academic fields and recognise students as both academics and athletes”, said Esteves.
When asked what advice they would give to younger student athletes like themselves, Melville stated that getting your priorities right early on is important in finding a balance . Esteves added that surrounding yourself with good people is also important, with the most important thing being to try to enjoy the experience. “Ask for advice and help from the people around you, find a good support system, but most of all love every minute”.