Australia: Having both, my athlete-student experience: by Jake Harvie

australia having both my athlete student experience by jake harvie 6646bab02f8d5 - Australia: Having both, my athlete-student experience: by Jake Harvie - By Jake Harvie

By Jake Harvie

A few days before Christmas last year, I walked out of Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital having completed the final day of my 5th 5-week student placement, and my final day of a 7-year part time Physiotherapy degree. Over the 7 years of juggling University around my sporting career I have been fortunate enough, with the Kookaburras; to compete in and win gold medals at two Commonwealth games, play at two world cups, win a World League and Champions Trophy, play over 100 games for my country, miss selection for an Olympics (it can’t always be good), travel the world and most importantly challenge myself to grow as a person, plus hopefully add some value to the people and organisations I have been involved with along the way.
The reason I chose the top photo is because it was taken at 8pm on New Year’s Eve in 2022 in an abacus lab at Curtin University and I was back there again on New Year’s Day. It was less than a week before we departed for the 2023 Hockey World Cup. It was me doing what was required at that time. I was finalising a research proposal for the first physiotherapy placement I would complete on my return from the World Cup in India. Aside from two weeks of training in Perth that project was completed in airports, cafes, hotel rooms, lobbies and planes between Hobart, Melbourne, Delhi, Bhubaneswar, Singapore, Rourkela and Bangalore as I toured with the Kookaburras for the FIH Pro league just a few weeks after a heart break loss in the final seconds of the World Cup semi-final.

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It encapsulates many things for me and the reason I write athlete-student not student-athlete (as is often done) is my sporting career as a hockey player has always remained my main priority, and when push comes to shove, has always come first. I had a much larger number of staff and supervisors who endeavoured to offer me flexibility and support than the small number who offered more of a challenge. My first meeting at the faculty after being picked in the national team I was told to change degrees as I wouldn’t be able to manage the workload and that the faculty couldn’t offer me a flexible part-time timetable. We worked through that. That same year while competing at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast I was denied the opportunity to have a ‘catch up session’ in the anatomy lab before my lab exam as I had missed 6 of the available 8 lab session in the 8 weeks prior to the exam. I was told “there are no make-up lessons for students who choose to miss class” – fair enough too. I did quite poorly in that exam but by the end of the semester had success in the unit. I was fortunate not to fail a unit over my time during the degree. Resistance is an essential part in any journey, sometimes it just goes that way, and you have to make the best of the hand you are dealt in that situation. Accept your reality and get on with it.
Chop wood. Carry water.
Overall, I had a fantastic experience at university and the number of supervisors and students who offered their support with my studies, best wishes, and congratulations when I made selection or was part of medal winning teams far outweighed those that didn’t. Learning to roll with the punches and adapt to changing and undesirable conditions is necessary, and we know our brains survival-based negativity bias pulls us to focus on these challenges or ‘negative’ experiences. But that can’t be allowed to outweigh the good that is always somewhere and frequently more prominent in our environment. These challenges are just stories I am grateful to have now looking back on the experience in totality.

australia having both my athlete student experience by jake harvie 6646bb10be341 - Australia: Having both, my athlete-student experience: by Jake Harvie - By Jake Harvie

Hockey is my chosen pursuit of mastery, but whatever the pursuit of mastery, if it really is true, it requires everything you can give it. It meant that most often Uni would have to ‘fit in’ second to mastery. It means sitting written exams in Holland, Germany and London on rest days when some players were exploring foreign cities. It means being at the library at 5am on a Saturday or a Sunday to catch up on the month you missed. Which also means sometimes saying no to friends to be early to bed on Friday and Saturday nights. It means as an athlete who prepares meticulously for competition, being ok with not being as prepared as you would like for a clinical placement because you flew in from India at 2am that morning – and start in the clinic at 10am. And being fine with that because that is what is required. Because that is the choice you made, not the sacrifice.
You can have both, and yes you do have to balance things, but that balance can’t be equal. Balance for me meant that to complete a degree it would take me nearly twice as long as all of those who completed the ‘normal’ study pathway. It meant meeting a new year group of students every second year, getting strange looks after missing 4 weeks of classes away on tour, my name always being ‘student 30’ on the attendance list and laughing at myself not knowing where a classroom was in my 6th year at university. It meant accepting my graduation certificate in the mail while away on tour. And being fine with all that too because that was what mastery demanded.
Growing up in a more ‘modern’ and well researched age of athletes we were always told you need balance, and you do. University, hobbies like surfing and playing music plus being a dependable friend, partner, sibling, or parent must have a place in life. I am a total believer that good people make good athletes and great people make great athletes. To be that person you need to be well rounded, you can’t be one dimensional. But no one defined to me that it can’t be 50/50 if you or your team want to try and be the very, very best at something, if you truly want to pursue mastery, you must be ok with doing what is required to move in that direction. That has been a lesson learnt along the way and a mindset choice. In the example of an Olympic sport everyone has the same goal of winning a gold medal, so it isn’t the best goal that wins, it is those with the best systems that win and to put those systems in place often that means study, surfing or playing music and sometimes friends or family is going to have to make room or take a backseat. And you need to be ok with that too.
I am someone who always wants to do everything, and ‘make it work’ so it has been a great lesson to understand how few pursuits of mastery you can have in life if you pursue it in the purest and truest sense. But if you do give it your all – so much fulfilment can be found. The more you give time and develop your skills in that pursuit of mastery you will likely see that the more competent you get, the more you enjoy it. You may find choosing to look at something as a pursuit of mastery and not as work allows you to love it even more, allows that thing to be one of your hobbies because you choose to see it that way. It might even be fun. Who doesn’t want to spend more time doing the things they love. Often it takes time to build something you love. It takes a commitment to pursuing mastery.
You can’t tick off mastery like a goal, it isn’t something to be completed, in my eyes it is more a process of refinement that requires humility to remain immersed in over time. Will I, or can I ever achieve it? I am unsure. One can never play the perfect game. But consistently trying to find yourself in the pursuit of progress that shapes the path towards mastery if very fulfilling. Allow yourself permission to be so encapsulated by your chosen pursuit of mastery.

It is a blessing. Not a burden.

australia having both my athlete student experience by jake harvie 6646bb4696574 - Australia: Having both, my athlete-student experience: by Jake Harvie - By Jake Harvie

I look forward to working in the Physiotherapy space at some stage as my pursuit of mastery on the hockey pitch allows but I get a sense that the spaces of high-performance, culture and leadership are calling my name. A beautiful thing about an athletic career is that you can’t do it at the top level forever. Which means there will be an opportunity to pursue mastery in another field somewhere down the road.
Enjoy your pursuit and thanks for reading.

australia having both my athlete student experience by jake harvie 6646bb6649eb2 - Australia: Having both, my athlete-student experience: by Jake Harvie - By Jake Harvie

Australia Hockey

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