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o one w o u l d deny college can be a stressful place. Between the heavy workloads of classes and the business of everyday life, one can feel out of place, struggling, or overwhelmed. But what happens when with all of this work is thrown on top of long practices, traveling for games, and physical wellness? Would the mental stress only be heightened by the physical toll, or can these conflicting schedules be a positive force in a student’s life? The Indy interviewed two athletes — rower Maura Church ‘14 and rugger Helen Clark ‘15 — who both picked up new sports in college (Church was a runner and Clark, a tennis and powder-puff football player). They gave us a look into the adjustments necessary for the life of a student-athlete at Harvard. When one thinks of studentathletes, the athlete often comes to mind first. The sheer amount of time these members of the community put into their sport is astounding. Clark says that rugby workouts often “include traditional squats and presses as well as more dynamic jump rope and strength move circuits.” Other than the normal workouts one could imagine with a rower — which may include anything from lifts to conditioning to crew-specific regimens — Church made sure to note the recovery aspect of wellness, writing, “Our coaches are very focused on active recovery — stretching, icing, eating within 30 minutes of the workout, going to the trainer, being preventative about injuries — that I’ve found myself actively seeking recovery, even if I’m not hurting.” One of the overlooked aspects of wellness is this healthy combination of physically training the body and keeping the body in shape. Many simply think of training as muscle and condition building, but in reality, wellness also encompasses significant maintenance. As important as physical wellness is, however, mental health is an oft10

overlooked yet vitally significant aspect of time management as a student-athlete. With time spent in lecture, section, gym, playing arena, and extracurriculars, one may ask when there is actually time to calm down, relax, and enjoy some freedom. Church, however, explains, “Like many athletes, I find that playing a varsity sport actually helps me balance my time. Rowing so frequently means that when I’m not at practice, I have to schedule my time wisely to be able to finish my work and do the things I want to do.” The extra scheduling comes in place at the beginning of each semester, when the rower told us that she looks for the classes “that you don’t have to stay up late finishing a p-set the night before a morning practice.” Also, she notes, “When we’re out on the water, it’s great to work out any stress or anger or whatever via the workout.” Clark, on the other hand, sees the sport as something that could induce stress — if it weren’t for the cohesive makeup of the rugby team. “We form study groups, encourage each other when we’re feeling overwhelmed, and give any sort of help we can when someone is struggling on an assignment.” The team acts as a support group to one another, both

It’s how you play the game.

academically and mentally. This way, the student-athlete always has somewhere to turn when the going gets rough. In another instance of what may seem to be a stressful aspect of being a student-athlete, the spring season of rugby begins with weekly ten-tomidnight practices. Clark, however, views these in the positive light, asserting, “The late nights are a bit of a bonding experience for our team, and our practices are always super fun, so overall I think it’s a positive thing.” While two athletes cannot account for the sentiments of our entire campus, both of these students find benefits more often than distress in their athletic engagement. Sports can be a burden at times, clogging a schedule with excessive hours of work and practice. Yet the team offers a social atmosphere — an escape, even, from the seemingly inescapable stress of college.


Clark acknowledges this and more, explaining, “Rugby has been the best experience I’ve had at Harvard, and it’s definitely been the most beneficial thing in terms of physical and mental health. It has motivated me to stay active, given me a social support group, and helped me learn to manage my time to balance academics.” In the end, wellness does not have to diminish due to heavy workloads and long hours in the gym. Athletes find solace in their teammates, just as students find solace in their classmates; studentathletes have the benefit of both. Angela Song ’14 (angelasong@college) knows what it’s like to be a student-athlete. Sean Frazzette ’16 (sfrazzette@college) doesn’t.

Photos by Angela Song

02.28.13 • The Harvard Independent

Profile for The Harvard Independent

The Wellness Issue  

The Indy investigates what it means to be well. Harvard's hallowed halls are not always the healthiest places, so we reflect on what we can...

The Wellness Issue  

The Indy investigates what it means to be well. Harvard's hallowed halls are not always the healthiest places, so we reflect on what we can...