From Sport to School: Transferring Skills and Creating Space for Change

I completed my first semester of college this past fall from home here in Fernie. Initially, it felt like a daunting task. I realize now that it allowed me to learn independently and problem solve without resorting to immediate assistance from classmates or asking for help from professors as soon as I felt challenged. Learning alone forced me to do my research, organize my thoughts, and spend the time to find a solution.

As I reflect on my online learning experience and balancing productivity, rest, and health, I examine how I’ve used sport to navigate going back to school (which does mean ditching class to get a few laps in at the ski hill). Playing and competing in sports gave me the tools to set achievable goals for my athletic and physical life. Setting goals for my academic and mental life felt like an entirely different beast. I could imagine the destination I wanted to achieve in my future self but could not visualize the process. 

I was speaking to a former Olympic athlete recently about our learning experiences. We talked about the challenges we faced with finding the confidence to believe in our academic abilities. It was strange that in so many parts of our lives, we had the confidence and strength in our physical and mental self because of sport, but we felt challenged to accept and use this confidence when facing academic ventures. The question was how to divert this energy.

In my first week of classes, I had an entire lesson dedicated to common behaviors of procrastination and some tools to prevent or slow the symptoms. I found many of the tools I learned from sport to combat nerves or push myself to become stronger related to how I approached my classes. I would write five-year goal plans in ski racing or set a timer to persist through a challenging workout. Some of the solutions for school was to write a goal list for the week and complete the most challenging task first or at least start it! Another example was to set a timer for a block of time to focus. I began with 15min work times and 5min break times, slowly working my way up to longer times. Finally, my own rule because my phone is not my friend. I started to leave my phone in a different room to avoid the inevitable distraction. Establishing a daily routine to guide my day was also helpful, even if it just meant waking up at the same time every day.

I hadn’t written a formal essay or completed an assignment in almost four years, and I felt afraid that I might not be able to do it, dreading just even starting. I began to tell myself this mantra, “I can do hard things.” Surprisingly, I began to believe it. With each new assignment completed, I realized that I must surely be capable of the next project. This process took time to evolve as I was relearning to learn. Ultimately, for me, it is about patience. Even though I know there will be more hurdles, I realize that the tools to overcome them are available as long as I am patient enough to persist through the process. 

As I strive to carve out more time to grow and learn, I will always find time to carve turns on my skis as much as possible, and I hope you do too!

Photo by Cam Keith