Education and professional sports go hand in hand

1 June 2023

It is no secret to anyone that many young footballers represent the Valmiera FC team. Most of them are not only at the beginning of their professional careers but also at the beginning of their lives. From childhood, laying the foundations for a smart, healthy, and capable person is essential. Our boys not only play football but also actively study at school or study at a university. Kristers Penkevics is one of those who perfectly balances the two things that are so important to his life – playing football and education. He himself tells about how he is lucky.

Where and what do you study?

I am currently studying at RISEBA University, studying business psychology. Remotely, in a distance learning program where I have to study for three and a half years. While I am in the Valmiera FC club, I can use my time for self-development, being in this team also gives me the opportunity to focus on things outside the football pitch.

How did you come to the decision about the specific study program? What did you find interesting about it?

To be honest, I came to this choice very simply. There weren’t many options to study remotely, via distance learning. It must be understood that I live in Valmiera, so studying in person, and traveling to Riga would be very difficult. This seemed like the best option for me to continue studying and learning. It seemed that business psychology is very useful for life. Business and psychology are two fields that are interesting individually, but when combined, they become even more interesting. Learning both business and psychology things will allow me to be functionally more useful in life. For example, with the help of psychology, I will be able to better understand people, their pros and cons.

The relationship between sports and education – what is it like?

Sports and education have always gone hand in hand in my life, it’s hard to imagine my life without them. Education has always been a priority. Opinion came from my parents that education should be my priority. If I don’t study well, I won’t do well in life, then I’ll have to stay without football. There were rules, following which I could ensure both good results in school and playing sports. I’ve had to delay a lot and lose a lot of information, but it’s a part of an athlete’s life, you have to take it into account if you really want to do sports. Education was never postponed, I always studied after training or found moments to do so. Now it’s easier at the university, you don’t have to sit on a bench all the time from eight to three, I can sit down at the computer at home, in my place, and study calmly, without rushing.

In your opinion why is it important for a professional athlete to go after education?

Everyone should understand that you will be doing sports for a limited period of time. The career of a professional athlete is not long, 15 to 20 years at most. There comes a time when a career ends. Then you don’t know what to do anymore. Therefore, it is important that at the end of your career, to have a diploma and a plan to be able to provide for yourself and your family. It is your second career option. Education allows you to plan your life ahead, and prepare for the future. Of course, education ensures that a person develops his skills, knowledge, and intellectual capacity. You make more correct decisions and improve your critical thinking. What you learn at school can often be applied in your private life as well.

What are the biggest challenges in combining these two things?

The biggest challenge is time planning, people often don’t know how to do it or do it chaotically. Consequently, unnecessary stress and problems arise. You have the training, which you must attend now, but you may also have specific deadlines for schoolwork. Time must be found. The second thing is definitely discipline, you go for the goal and you have to be able to keep focus. An athlete must know what discipline is, it is very important in football. Sticking to your goals, and not stopping at any difficulties, is a very big challenge. You come home tired and you still have to write a report – you have to force yourself. In the end, however, I understand that I am doing it for myself.

There are definitely times when you want to give up or are too lazy to force yourself to study, tell me how you deal with it.

Of course, there are times when you want to give up on your studies. It’s been there since childhood, no matter what age, it doesn’t change. There is no formula for success, I know what my responsibilities are. Pure discipline and the desire for self-development and discipline, these two things go together. Higher education is a free choice for everyone, but it’s cool to be competent in several areas. The more you work, the more you realize that you develop as a person, it is pleasant for yourself, of course also for the people around you, with whom you get to communicate on a daily basis.

Here we are talking more about professional sports and education, but our academy students also want to play football, but they must not forget about school – what would be your advice to young people who dream of playing football?

Young people who play football would definitely be advised to find a balance between sport and school. Plan, and organize your time. Attend practice, but prioritize school in your free time. Find your most effective methods to deal with everything. Communicate with coaches and teachers – communication is very important. Mutual respect gives you the opportunity to agree and talk about different things so that in the future it will be easier for you to find compromises in difficult situations. The rest is already in your hands.

What would you do if you weren’t a footballer?

If I were not a footballer, I would study abroad. I want to get the best education possible, I don’t want to be a fool. I want to grow, sport is just a part of my life, but it can end in an instant. I am currently struggling with an injury that has made me understand a lot. Sport is not forever, there must be a safety cushion that helps you continue the course of life you have started. I believe that even after obtaining this diploma, I will continue to study and develop myself.

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