Articles and Case Studies

Finding Support in Soccer

11 Dec 2017

soccer team

It’s Friday night. The grass is cut, the footballs are pumped, shoes laced tight.

Twenty or so UQ medical students have come together to play in the grand final of the South East Queensland social football competition. Unfortunately, I’m watching from the sidelines tonight, as the second UQ Medicine team didn’t make it to the final this year.

I’ve been playing for the Herston Hatchets, UQ medical school’s soccer club, since starting my medical studies last year. Initially I signed up looking for yet another extra-curricular activity to distract me from the impending onslaught of lectures, readings, exams and clinical rotations. I got what I was looking for, a distraction. But I also ended up getting more out of it than I had signed up for.

There’s no mystery in it – medical school is difficult

It’s akin to putting a firehose to your mouth and trying to drink, every day, for four years. There is always more to learn and more work to be put in. I tend to spend more time worrying about all the work I need to do than sitting down and doing it. Over time, the worry can build up just as much as the work. Then the work starts to suffer. Sometimes it gets the better of you.

“I’m worried about you, Dan,” the coach told me. Alex, an American exchange student studying in second year, coaches and runs our team. “You haven’t been yourself lately.”

I didn’t really understand, I thought I was going just fine.

“A couple of us are going out for a beer after training, come with us,” said another teammate.

It wasn’t until a few months later that I realised I had been struggling at the time. And that it took my teammates noticing my behaviour at training to know something was wrong and to offer a helping hand.

The team very quickly became my “therapy” in getting through a tough period. For two hours, twice a week, I would meet up with a group of friends, and spend time doing something physical while building relationships and having a good laugh. During this period, that resource was invaluable.

When your mental health drops, your performance drops

In the period that my mental health lapsed, I fell behind quite drastically in studies, and my grades reflected that. And although it takes more than a beer with some friends to get back to 100%, it’s important to know there are people who care about you and who have your back.

Playing soccer with my friends at UQ has become more than just a meet-up twice a week to kick the ball around. The people in the team have become some of my closest friends. They’ve become the first people to celebrate with me when I win, and to pick me up when I lose. For a lot of us, the soccer team has become an institution to give us support and escape when we need a few hours to spend with friends doing something we all enjoy.

Although it can be tough fitting in social sports when times get busy, it is those exact times when the escape is most needed. I cannot recommend enough the value of putting aside the time once or twice a week to at least join a sports team.

Being accountable to my teammates helps keep me accountable to the sport. Even if I don’t have time to go for a run or head to the gym, it’s almost impossible to skip training and tell my teammates why I wasn’t there. It’s easier to just go.

For tonight, I’m not playing in the grand final – but I’m watching it play out surrounded by good friends.

Daniel Edey (MDA National Member)
Year 2 Medical Student
University of Queensland

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