16 Oct 2020
In a MyPlayers Magazine feature, Bulls flank MARCO VAN STADEN explains how he's balanced playing rugby with studying, and what he plans to do when he hangs up his boots.
I made my Currie Cup debut for the Blue Bulls in the final year of my BA (Sports Science) degree. I really had no excuse not to pursue a tertiary education. I had a study bursary from the Tuks academy, and while I played most of my rugby for Tuks, I did so with the support of the Blue Bulls as well.
It was not always easy. At the Bulls, we usually started training early in the mornings, and late afternoons would allow me time to rest up. Then, from 18:00 until 22:00, I would study.
I started with my honours degree in the year I made my Super Rugby and Springbok debut, which made it more challenging. I still have one semester to complete.
But, as a junior player, you have more than enough time to balance your rugby and academic responsibilities.
What keeps me motivated is knowing that my rugby career can end within a split second, and any young player who thinks he is only going to play rugby and not pursue further education or professional development, needs to wake up. As a junior player, you have more than enough time to study.
Some of my lecturers were not overly supportive of me missing classes or arriving late, but others were. So, I pushed through.
My coaches at the Bulls also supported me when I had to miss training because of a test or important lecture. It would have been easy to just give it up and hope for the best in rugby, but I am glad I didn’t.
You have to keep the back door or a plan B open should you find it hard to transition from junior to senior rugby immediately. I have seen too many players who underestimate how difficult that transition is, more so for gifted players who almost expect to arrive and thrive in the senior game.
When I retire from rugby, I want to farm. But rugby doesn’t always offer players the luxury of making that decision on their own terms and in their own time. This is a dangerous sport. So, if my career were to end today because of an injury, and I couldn’t immediately make the change to agriculture that I’d hoped to make, at least I’ve got a degree that offers me the opportunity to work in rugby – I can add more value to the game than by just playing it.
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