Sport or Education? A Constant Struggle for Young Athletes

As Donald Horne said in The Lucky Country “Sport to many Australian’s is life and the rest is a shadow.”

This passion and importance of sport to the Australian culture is evident in Australian Bureau Statistics figures released in 2009, which showed that 70% of boys and 56% of girls played organised sport in the twelve months prior (more detailed figures can bee seen in the table below).


63026_126687634048165_4657970_nFor some young athletes this can cause a conflict between education and their passion for sport. One such athlete is seventeen-year-old Christopher Hart who divides his time between year twelve at school and playing under eighteens S.G. Ball rugby league for the Canberra Raiders.

Chris currently lives in Goulbourn with his family and is studying for his Higher School Certificate (HSC). Whilst Chris hopes to make a career out of football he understands “that it is very hard to achieve” so he has a back up plan to either attend university to study sports management or begin landscaping with the hope eventually running his own business.

Chris has been playing football since he was eleven years old and is now in his third year with Canberra Raiders. Chris has been a standout on the football field earning a place in the Canberra under sixteens developmental squad at the age of fourteen and quickly progressing to the top side the following year. Now in his third year at the age of seventeen he has been placed into the top under eighteens team, where he will play for the next two years.544559_354911924559067_1688457825_n

These two major aspects of his life have caused some tensions and difficulties for Chris, especially his training routine that consists of three sessions per week.  When I asked him how he was finding balancing school and football he said “at first it was so hard to get into a routine but after I did I found that I used my time more productively with school work and assessments. I think it all just comes down to using my time wisely and getting on top of things so they are not left to the last minute.”

imagesThis idea of balance between sport and education has even been adopted by the NRL in regards to their developmental competition the Holden Cup (formerly Toyota Cup). To ensure that any players participating in this competition are not disadvantaged in their ability to develop careers outside of Rugby League, teams are prohibited from training between 8am and 5pm Monday to Friday and all players must be engaged in either 24 hours per week of study or work.

Chris has embraced this thinking in his own football career with his motto “remember no matter how good you are, there is always someone better.” Chris also told me that whilst he would “love to make this sport my income” the greatest benefit for him was “signing a hat for a little fan and seeing how happy it made them.” This brings us right back to the centrality of sport to the Australian culture, with the idolisation of athletes.

In conclusion sport is one of the biggest facets of the Australian culture and lifestyle, almost to the point that those people that do not participate or follow some form of sport are looked at as “degenerates” according to Horne in The Lucky Country. This however can place added pressure on young people that display extraordinary talent or ability in a particular sporting field whilst still having to ensure they put in the maximum effort into their studies at the same time.

Further readings that have helped shape my understanding.



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