Six figures from the Boston University Department of Athletics joined the “Sound Mind, Sound Body” panel Thursday night to discuss academic productivity among student athletes and how these skills can be translated across the general student body.
The panel was sponsored by the BU Athletics, Core Curriculum and Kilachand Honors College and was moderated by Marissa Nichols, the athletic department’s first director of leadership and career development, who said the panel was an opportunity to collaborate with the larger campus community.
“We love partnering with campus as much as possible,” Nichols said. “… We were very grateful to be a part, and it was a lot of fun being able to learn from the panel and hear from the audience.”
Nichols opened the discussion by saying that the academic stress and pressure experienced by the general student body paralleled the performance expectations student athletes experienced about their play, focusing on how to maintain perspective, time management and mindfulness.
BU women’s soccer head coach Nancy Feldman said that her players stated that they often performed better in the classroom during the season when they were at their most busy.
Feldman argued, then, that the balance came with structure in order to maintain control and organization.
The sentiment was echoed by softball head coach Ashley Waters, who said her program’s academic development has improved under its dedicated play and study times.
In the past year, the teams have named a combined total of 28 players on the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll, which requires a minimum 3.20 GPA.
“If you think of companies like Google where they have a lot things that their employees can do on campus … their productivity is very high, so I think this is where you can put in the mindfulness,” said Darcy Gould, an associate strength and conditioning coach who has worked with BU’s varsity athletes for over a decade.
Gould also emphasized that mindfulness should be used to recognize and recognize the work being done in a hectic schedule.
The two student athletes on the panel — Brittany Younan, a former infielder under Waters, and Sarah Maietta, a junior lightweight rower — attested to the challenges of maintaining motivation.
To Maietta, the key to motivation is to find a goal that lessens the strain of tasks done outside of that goal. A CRCA Scholar Athlete and Under 23 World Champion gold medalist, she also said that the meaning of success is greatly diminished without personal satisfaction.
“That’s a really challenging thing that takes a lot of trial and error,” Maietta said, “but if you try a bunch of different things and you feel like there’s a basis of your time that you can fill with something you truly enjoy, then getting all the other stuff done in the intermediate time doesn’t feel that hard.”
Younan emphasized the importance of being proactive when getting ahead of work, from planning your schedule to familiarizing yourself with professors.
A two-year captain of the softball team, Younan said that after not speaking up in the locker room during her sophomore year — the only year the team did not make the Patriot League tournament — she made the decision to step forward.
It was not a straightforward process, with Younan describing it taking many meetings with Waters for her to transform into a more vocal leader.
“I think I learned how to get out of my comfort zone because I just learned out to have confidence,” Younan said. “It’s still a work in process, I still deal with it at work … I think the most important thing is recognizing that you need to have confidence in yourself and what you’re thinking it most likely true.”