As a varsity athlete, it is challenging to effectively manage your schoolwork, training, a part-time job, and social life. Most athletes figure out ways to make it work. However, committing to a full- time work term (40 hours per week) provides exposure to a whole new world of obstacles.
This article offers some insight into my experience finding balance as a full-time co-op employee while also training and competing as a varsity track and field athlete. I’ll also offer some tips and tricks to keep in mind if you are considering the co-op program as a varsity/high-level athlete.
In a perfect world, a varsity student-athlete at Simon Fraser University would complete their work terms during the NCAA offseason, which is the summer semester for most sports. But, as a middle-distance runner, my experience has been different since I train and compete almost year-round (cross-country season starts in the late summertime and goes through the fall, indoor track happens in the winter, and the outdoor track takes me through the spring into the summer). As a result, I had to create my own perfect world and figure out a way to manage high-level competition with a full-time internship.
My first thought was to find a normal 8-to-5 co-op, which would mean training on my own early in the morning before work or in the evenings after a long day. My performances on the track would have suffered significantly.
Fortunately, I found the perfect co-op opportunity - for me - at Streamline Athletes, which allowed me to continue training with my team twice a week in the afternoons. As a company operating in the collegiate track and field/cross-country space, Streamline Athletes understands my situation and allows me to catch up on hours lost for training on the other days of the week.
A bonus is that my coworkers are physically active people, so I’m even able to get some runs in mid-work day with them.
My advice to a student-athlete who wants to do their internship while in season is to target employers that will understand and embrace your circumstances. Keep in mind that not all companies or organizations will be flexible. Depending on the industry and the employer’s standards and culture, the flexibility you need just might not be possible.
In the event you’re ultimately unable to find the right level of flexibility for you, you might find yourself in the office from 8-5 every day of the week. In that case, you’ll need to adjust your training schedule around your work hours. It is doable, but you might need to train on your own sometimes (if your coach allows you to) and you will need some extra motivation when working out after a long day of work.
It’s important to know what your current list of priorities is. By establishing what aspects of your life make your “most important” list, you create self-awareness and allow yourself to shift focus toward your number one priority for a given number of days or weeks. On that note, it’s important to keep in mind that priorities are not static. They can (and likely will) constantly change. Being able to shift your focus without completely removing a priority will keep you from getting too overwhelmed or bogged down by sport or work.
What does that look like for me?
Leading up to an important track and field race, my top priority is my sport. Therefore, my mental and physical preparation for the race should be my focus of the day/week. This directly affects my work:
- I try not to stay at the office too late.
- I often get up for water - gotta stay hydrated!
- I stand up and stretch whenever I’ve been sitting for a long time.
With this being said, it’s important to stay on task while I am at work - even if track might be my higher priority focus for that day or week.
Like I mentioned before, the type of flexibility I’ve had with Streamline Athletes might not be appropriate for every employer out there. But with my perfect world and the opportunity to use my mental trick of making the track a priority when necessary, I was able to reach all of my athletic goals this summer while working full time.
However, when I have no important competitions on the immediate horizon, more of my brainpower is allocated to my internship goals and tasks. I will generally start focusing on work - even outside of the office. I am also more dialled in during working hours. My recovery and training get pushed aside slightly, but this little sacrifice makes it possible to catch up with some missed workload that occurs when travelling for competitions.
It can be overwhelming to work full-time as a varsity athlete amid your competition season. But, taking time for social activities and other hobbies in addition to just sport and work is important for preventing burnout. I believe that staying balanced with all the aspects of your life is important.