Work Hard, Play Hard – Balancing hockey and studies

I am often approached by the concerned parents of young athletes who have become worried that their child’s involvement in hockey will distract them from other aspects of their life, particularly their studies. But rest assured – a healthy investment in sport is actually conducive to studying, and can be hugely beneficial to overall mental well-being.  In fact, studies continue to show that athletes actually perform better in school than their non-athlete peers!

Long-term benefits

A wealth of research reveals the positive effects of exercise on both molecular and behavioural brain function. In other words, regularly playing hockey is not only fantastic for your physical health, but it will get the brain firing on all cylinders and do wonders for your psychological well-being. Without getting too bogged-down in the complicated science, performing physical activity stimulates the growth and nourishment of new cell and neuronal connections, making you sharper, a better learner and ready to become best-friends with your oldest enemy…schoolwork.

As well as being a natural anti-depressant, contributing to individual happiness, there are enormous benefits to be realised from hockey’s team environment. For parents of adolescent-aged players, regular sport-participation can both soften the blow of the angry, hormonal bite, and provide your child with an invaluable circle of friends during an important time of development. Hockey can indeed be a fantastic way to meet new people, make friends and socialize with like-minded individuals. For me, being part of the “hockey family” is one of the most treasured aspects of my sport; being the avenue through which I have made worldwide contacts, and formed many of my most-treasured, lifelong friendships.

Immediate benefits

Exercise is also proven to have immediate benefits in improving an individual’s ability to concentrate. Stressed with a paper, or hit a wall with your latest project? Taking an hour or two to practice your hockey can be the perfect way to get your blood and thoughts flowing. Even during the busiest of times, I have found hockey to be my friendly distraction; providing an escape during periods of stress, exams and looming deadlines.  Instead of bashing my head against a book in frustration, I would turn to the Astroturf, where I could find a positive outlet for my pent-up stress.

A lot of people are simply concerned that participation in regular hockey will leave no room in the schedule for study. Research however shows that people with a busier schedule are actually more productive than individuals with fewer commitments. In reality therefore, the time spent practising hockey often only occupies time that is usually wasted. A regular commitment to hockey will not only help to limit the time spent aimlessly refreshing Facebook and Twitter in a fantastic display of procrastination,  but aid the development of essential time-management skills that will last a lifetime. And just one more bonus…employers like athletes.

Too much of a good thing?

Of course, in order to ensure that the full benefits of hockey participation are realised, some balance is necessary. Developing your hockey in a positive way is not a matter of devoting every waking hour to the sport – this can increase the chance of injury and even foster a disinterest in continuing to play. Everyone knows their own limits, and what type of schedule they can manage.  Most importantly, despite the natural dips in interest, hockey should continue to be enjoyable.

If regular hockey is integrated effectively into your schedule, participation can positively influence many aspects of your life. Instead of being a negative distraction, sport in many ways, performs the entirely opposite function. If you love hockey therefore, embrace it – and enjoy the many benefits that go with it.

If you want to improve your game and need help balancing your studies with effective hockey specific training, then click here to find out about our Mentorship Program, where an international player & mentor will help and guide you on what you should be doing for your best chance at achieving your goals. 

About The Author

Lauren Penny

Lauren is a former International Hockey Player, Performance Coach & Mentor specialising in helping hockey players to be more confident, improve their fitness and perform more consistently to get noticed and reach higher teams.