Our campaign, Active at Oxford, is all about encouraging students to take part in more exercise, in order to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits associated with sports and physical activity.

However, we know that there are only so many hours in the day, which is why it’s important to be able to prioritise your workload and balance your activities and studies.

Jacob Kearney is one student who has successfully achieved this balance, and here we look a little closer at his story, and what his tutor thinks about his sports participation:

How I get active

Active at Oxford“In Michaelmas and Hilary, I play football twice a week with the college first and second teams in league. The first team is a decent level of football, but anyone can pile into seconds and third team games! In the summer term, despite not being very good, I play second team cricket which is a really nice way to spend an afternoon, and I am a keen college rounders player!

“Getting involved in team sports is obviously a great way to meet people, and I have met most of my close friends at university through football. Moving about in the fresh air is the best way to shake off the library cobwebs and clear my head of the essay question I can’t answer!

“Sometimes I have had to miss games because I have labs or tutorials. A few times I have had to miss a second team game due to a looming deadline. However, I think you can always set up your routine around non work commitments, whether that means working slightly later in the evenings, earlier in the mornings, or binge watching Friends less! Sport is also such a good study break, and I often do my best work after an hour of five-a-side.

“If you’re worried about not being good enough, don’t be! College sport is inclusive for all. If you’re concerned about it affecting your work, have a look at your current timetable. You may have to give up never working after dinner, but the benefits of sport will definitely benefit you.”

Jacob Kearney

St Edmund Hall, Biomedical Science, 3rd year

The tutor’s view

“Studying at Oxford can be a very intense experience, particularly for undergraduates who are dealing with eight-week terms, and it’s important to work hard but also achieve a good balance that works for you. Any form of regular physical exercise can be a real help in giving students a break, and an opportunity to switch off for a short time, so that they can come back refreshed. As with any extra-curricular interests though, students need to be able to manage the commitments they take on and not over-commit, but those organisational skills can be a very valuable part of what a student learns at Oxford.

“Students who take part in high-level sport also have to demonstrate dedication to their training which often carries over into other areas of their life – so they have the self-discipline and the competitive nature that drives them to work hard and excel academically as well.

“It can be difficult to keep up with the demands of the course alongside team training sessions, and I’ve seen students sometimes struggle – particularly at the start of their time here – because of having unrealistic expectations of how much they can fit into a week. There are times when I’ve had to discuss that in a frank way and encourage them to drop something in order to achieve a more realistic timetable. However, the situation can often be improved significantly simply by figuring out how to be more organised and planning ahead in a way that will allow them to carve out enough time for both academic and extra-curricular.

“It helps to be aware of a student’s interests outside of their subject, particularly if it’s something like taking part in high-level sport that would require a significant time commitment, and to discuss this with them. The tutor is then in a much better position to see any potential problems with time management, and suggest strategies to improve those skills before it becomes a problem that will affect a student’s longer-term academic performance.

“Jacob is realistic about the demands of their course – it is a significant workload and he knows that he will sometimes have to prioritise studies over other activities that he might perhaps prefer to be doing. But the fact that he is quite active on the College’s sports teams helps him to be a more rounded individual, and to stay healthy and happy which obviously also has a positive impact on his studies.”

Professor Robert Wilkins
Associate Professor in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics and American Fellow in Physiology at St Edmund Hall.

Read more student testimonials here.

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