Do you prefer the sports field to the classroom? Don’t worry, you’re definitely not alone.
Some parts of school are more exciting than others and staying on top of all aspects of school life can be tough. The ability to simultaneously balance academic and sporting goals is an important tool for any student to learn, and even take with you into tertiary studies. We chatted to Chris Ekron who aims to tackle this head on through his Athlete Performance Management (APM) programme.
So, What Exactly is APM?
Chris says that his motivation to establish this Athlete Performance Programme stemmed from his own experiences playing sport. He was an avid sportsman at school and had dreams of playing cricket for South Africa. He says:
“I was told I would make it as a cricketer- and I pretty much believed everyone. As a result, academics weren’t really a serious focus back then.”
Towards the end of matric, Chris suffered a serious injury that put his sporting career on hold. He recalls:
“My academics were very poor and I didn’t have much of a plan. I never really came back to the level I was playing at in matric. I luckily ended up going to university and studying sports management and after that, doing my PGCE. In South Africa, school is the best way to get involved with sport and athletes”
Now, as a teacher and coach, Chris says he realises the significance of students learning the value of academics while still pursuing sporting goals. It was a combination of his own experience as an aspiring sportsman as well as his teaching and coaching exposure that made Chris realise the importance of balancing sports and academics, and the fact that many students struggle to do this.
According to Chris, many high schoolers aren’t exactly interested in taking advice from their parents. However, they still want help navigating the multitude of tough decisions involved in planning a future, regardless of whether they wish to be a professional sportsman or not.
Sport in South Africa and APM’s Goals
While South Africa boasts many successful sports teams, it’s a tough industry to break into and careers are not always guaranteed. Chris informed us of the challenges that aspiring sportsmen and women face in South Africa:
“Overseas, it is slightly easier to make it as a professional sportsman as there are a lot more opportunities. In South Africa, it’s tough making it- but not impossible. There is a big lack of support for athletes in South Africa.”
Chris identifies that he didn’t have the necessary support and advice to deal with his injury or plan for his future accordingly when he was at school. Therefore, through APM, Chris wants to mentor school-level athletes and provides them with the holistic support they need. His aim is to provide them with the tools to build a balanced lifestyle. Chris told us that:
“What we’ve discovered is that, while there’s access to dieticians, physiotherapists, biokineticists, coaches and trainers, everyone is speaking to the student from a different angle without talking to each other. Sometimes the students don’t understand what they’re being told. Where we fit in is helping them to understand all of this and provide holistic support. One of the biggest challenges is that they receive too much information and hear too many different things and get too many opinions. It’s important to help them streamline this information.”
Chris also outlines the importance of helping students understand the advice that they are given. He says that there is no point in giving a student advice without explaining why something is important and giving them reasons that they can understand. It is important to offer guidance while also providing students and athletes with the tools to go on to manage their own futures. They have to understand the process.
“I tell them something and tell them why I’m telling them. I want them to understand why they are doing it and what the benefits are.”
While they identify promising athletes, APM is not only limited to these top performers. APM caters to any student wishing to improve their marks and sporting performance through balancing their sporting and academic life at school. Chris told us that:
“Initially I was too sports orientated. I only focused on that aspect of it. Then I realised that there’s a whole balance to it. I need to look at mentorship and academics more in-depth and the level they need to achieve to get into varsities. The idea has become clearer.”
For the top athletes, APM aim to help them reach the professional levels they wish to get to, but this is only a reality for a mere 1%. Therefore, it is important for these athletes to understand the importance of academics and to still work hard.
Chris said the following regarding how he goes about managing students’ expectations of becoming professional athletes:
“I always say it’s a process. Let them achieve smaller goals. If they want to play for South Africa, they first have to make first team, then province side. Rather than only looking at the big picture, I help them take it step by step. I’ve started it based on a personal experience, so it’s easier for me to tell them that, than to lie and say that I made it and tell them a success story. It’s important for me to be able to say to them, look – this is the reality.”
Currently, APM operates only in the Western Cape. In the future, Chris hopes to expand the programme to other provinces in order to give a larger number of promising athletes a chance to prosper in the classroom and on the field. APM also hopes to train more mentors and managers around the country as well as getting more sportswomen involved in the programme.
With regards to this, Chris expressed the following:
“After school is the biggest problem. They get asked to come and play for varsity teams and then leave school and are left to their own devices and there is no support. It’s not right, there is no success plan or idea for them. That’s why it important that they look at universities, jobs or academies. Even for the students receiving sports scholarships and bursaries for university, it is easy to let academics slip by getting wrapped up in sport and social aspects. It’s a reality.”
Here at EduOne, we’re strong believers in dreaming big and going for your goals. However, balance is key for any productive and healthy lifestyle. Working hard in all aspects of your life will help you to get where you want to go and prepare you for any outcome.
To get in touch with Chris or to find out more about APM, check out their Facebook page!