What does your life look like if you decide to go to America to combine sports and studies, something that is hard for many to imagine. That’s why we’d like to tell you more about it in this article.
Lotte Houtman, Slamstox’ Track and field intern, was part of Oakland University’s track and field team. She shares with us her year as a student athlete! She did high jump, pole vault and long jump for her university and from this followed her nickname: the Flying Dutchmen! A track and field team at American universities consists of +/- 30 athletes, giving the individual sport a team feeling!
Before my departure for Oakland University in Michigan, nerves were present. This quickly disappeared once I landed and saw my teammates standing to pick me up from the airport. Beforehand we had gotten acquainted over the phone and in America we immediately became my best friends. Hannah in particular took me in tow and showed me everything about both the school and everything around it. As a result, I quickly got used to it and could get the first semester off to a good start right away!
The first semester
The first half year of the school year is from late August to December, also called the first semester. Training begins immediately and school also starts right away. Already nice and busy! A new team and a whole new environment, which takes some getting used to. A lot of attention is paid to team bonding and the coach helps you with your school planning.
The school system in America is also different. What I found to be the biggest difference of the American school system compared to the Dutch school system is the mentality of the students in America. They want to get the highest grades and won’t settle for a six, so what is often seen as a student 10 in Holland is really a no go there! This really turned my mentality around in class as well.
For athletics, the indoor season lasts from January to March. This allows you to fully focus on training and school during the first semester. In terms of training, the first semester is all about condition and strength to get you ready for the indoor season. A lot of hard work straight away! I trained 5 days a week on the track from 10:00 to 13:00, including three days a week of strength training from 6:00 to 7:00. You also have another three hours of classes at school a day and you will have to find time somewhere for homework. Still, these tough weeks of training are a lot easier because of your teammates, you are all working towards the same goal.
The weekends in the first semester are free and we were able to do fun things. We could be found a lot at other sports games on campus where you encourage your friends or at games off campus. The coolest game I attended was an American football game at the University of Michigan. So many people in one stadium (107,000!), I didn’t know what I saw! Also shopping, going to the movies and eating out were things we often did on weekends during the first semester.
The second semester
After Christmas break, the second semester starts and lasts until June. During the second semester, the weekends are filled with competitions. Both home and away games will be on the schedule. I noticed that we got a lot of guidance from the physio and coaches and everything is taken care of for you there. What a top experience that was, I felt like a pro athlete! But school comes first, so that goes on as well, our discipline was severely tested during these full weeks.
The indoor season ends at the beginning of March and the outdoor season starts at the end of March. These seasons are a lot closer together than in the Netherlands so you have to switch fast. I personally liked competitions the most and didn’t mind that we started again so soon. The training hours are slightly reduced so you can take it easy during the week in preparation for your competitions. The last competition of the outdoor season is outdoor conference, which is what it’s all about. You work all year with your team to place as high as possible at the conference meet which makes the team feeling even stronger!
Outside of all the competitions and school days, there is still plenty of time to travel. At Easter and Thanksgiving you have a couple of days off and in spring break you have a whole week off. And beyond that, you have three (!) months of summer vacation. I started traveling down the east coast and west coast which was an amazing trip! After the summer, the year begins again…. But don’t forget to stick to coach’s summer schedule!
Would you also like to combine track and field and study in America? Then contact our track and field specialists quickly via this form. We will be happy to help you!