Being a student athlete while attending SSE Riga
Written by Carl-Gustav Kont, SSE Riga student
My name is Carl-Gustav, and I'm a 3rd-year student from Estonia who probably has an unusual career path underway during university. I have been doing judo for basically my whole life, since I started training at the age of 4.
Before going to 1st grade, I told my parents that I wanted to go to the Olympic Games. Since then, I have pursued the dream, building my entire life around this one core goal that keeps me going. During my time at SSE Riga, I have participated in the U21 European and World Championships, won the Estonian Championships twice, and participated in an Olympic training camp.
Balancing Sports and Academics
Besides sports-related activities, I have always valued my academic performance very highly. My parents and coach have instilled in me the importance of being a responsible and valuable contributor to society. Therefore, attending SSE Riga holds a high place among my accomplishments.
Perhaps in the past, athletes did not value education as highly, but I'm happy to say that I have noticed a changing trend.
Coming to SSE Riga was not easy, as I had to find a new place to train and also attend a completely new school that is notorious for its high academic demands. Since the first day in accounting class, I realized how important time management is if I wanted to keep pursuing my athletic career at the same time.
Luckily, the hybrid format and even complete off-site study options (implemented as a result of Covid restrictions at the time) have really helped me along the way. Without these options, I don't think I would have come so close to graduation. The online format enabled me to still have two training sessions a day, 11 training sessions a week, while attending classes and handing in assignments. For example, I wrote my Business Law exam from the top row of the competition stands, literally one day after fighting in the U21 European Championships, and managed to pass the exam.
Another vital part has been prioritizing everything. In order to make my tight schedule work, I have had to cut out fun activities like going out on Friday nights, attending social events, and overall enjoying time on SSE Riga premises. I have to admit that it has been harsh to live like that for the past 2.5 years, but on the other hand, I want to fulfill my dream of becoming an Olympian in 2028 and graduate with a BA's degree.
Setting priorities makes you drop irrelevant things while keeping your focus on what matters, so suddenly you notice that perhaps it is not possible to make everything work after all.
Mental Resilience and Support System
The third component in how I have been managing to make things work has been mental resilience. There have been many days where I have been close to quitting, but it is crucial to remember the beliefs and reasons why you started on this path in the first place. Also, the support system from family and friends helps me endure the vast amount of responsibilities by cheering me up when I'm down. Judo has taught me that whenever I get defeated by an opponent, I rise, learn from my mistakes, and live to fight for another day. I have applied this concept in my life and currently at SSE Riga.
Of course, without the help of SSE Riga's faculty, who have found the best solutions for me to be able to continue my studies, I would have had to fight much more of an uphill battle.