Sports / Events

The Reporter Diaries #12: (Athletics) Fusing Sport and Education.

What’s the key to fusing sport and education? “You can’t burn the candle at both ends”.

That’s the message from New Zealand middle distance runner, Simon Rogers. An undergraduate in the United States of America, a Masters student in New Zealand and now pursuing a PhD in Australia, the 1500m track runner understands what it takes it to build a life that marries sporting ambitions with academic excellence.

The 27-year-old, who is competing at the Summer Universiade for the first time, says that “it’s an honour” to represent his country at such a large global multi-sport event. “It’s been a true eye opener. Entering the village and then the opening ceremony was such a rush”. Simon’s success, both on the track and in his studies, could be largely thanks to a lifetime of inspiration from his father, Tony. An Olympic Runner for New Zealand in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, Simon draws a lot of motivation from his father’s experiences. And while Simon’s academic CV and global traverse is impressive, it’s his self-leadership and new-found openness that is truly extraordinary.

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Simon with Australian track athlete, Isaac Hockey, after the 1500m

Saying of his experience in three different environments’, Simon believes his biggest take-away lesson has been developing “an openness to new ideas and a desire for autonomy.” Based abroad once again, Simon now takes up residence at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. Between training sessions, the passionate athlete will be found working on a project that investigates the development of young athletes.

While It’s clear that the kiwi track athlete has managed to balance an athletic career with bold academic pursuits, chasing opportunities and living abroad have proved challenging. Talking candidly about learning to take accountability for where life takes you, Simon says that evolving from “being scheduled, to the scheduler” has been an important transition in his ability to succeed in both fields.

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Simon in action at Taipei Stadium for the 29th Summer Universiade

When asked what advice he would give other athletes who dream of attaining their PhD’s and representing their country simultaneously, his reply was simple; communicate.

“Talk it out. Don’t sit inside your own head wondering if you’re doing the right thing at the right time. Whether its training or big decisions in your academic track, seek out support. Sometimes the most valuable conversations come from those who can offer a calming voice or fresh perspective”

The word balance is now a platitude when discussing student-athletes. So how does a sportsperson genuinely go about finding ‘balance’ in their dual-careers? Coming from a national representative running the track towards his doctorate, it’s clear that communication and self-awareness are perfect places to start.

With the right mindset, a pool of desire and a tenacious attitude, anything is possible.


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