Sport during sixth year: how it can help the leaving cert slump

They say your school days are the best of your life but during sixth year that sounds like the biggest lie going. Life seems to constantly revolve around books, and everything is so serious all of the time. All those around you are pushing you to do well including yourself and that can get overwhelming.
However, it’s important to remember that sixth year is also fun; not only do you now rule your school, there are eighteenth parties, pre-debs and graduations. Your final year in school is a time to be totally, unapologetically selfish and get yourself through the Leaving Cert, to where you want to go and with good mental health. Sport pushes you in a different way and this has many benefits.
1. Reduces stress
Sport is a great way of relieving you of a lot of stresses and headaches that come with a lot of study. ‘Exercise give you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy and happy people don’t shoot their husbands.’ For anyone who isn’t familiar with Legally Blonde, I wouldn’t trust all medical advice given by Elle Woods but in this case she is right! Physical exercise stimulates your brain to produce chemicals called endorphins and these are responsible for a positive change in mood. Having just an hour of exercise a day means you can literally run the bad thoughts away.
2. Health benefits
It seems obvious but apart from benefiting your mental health, sport will also help your physical well-being. The sixth year stone doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily gain that much weight during the year but all those study snacks do add up. Many of you are as guilty of this as I was; a packet of crisps, biscuits, sweets and a million cups of tea went into every study session, along with a massive amount of procrastination. It is so important that you get up and go to training or even just on a walk with a friend. It’ll also built up those endorphins I was talking about.
3. Good for going to college
Nobody likes being asked questions about what they want to do but it is something one has to think about at some point. When researching courses, many worry that because they are not talented when it comes to the books, they are doomed. This is not the case. Colleges all over Ireland offer scholarships for a multitude of things, including sport. DCU offer a number of scholarships under the ‘DCU Elite Athlete Development Programme’, and Trinity, UCD, DIT, UL and Waterford IT doing similar programmes. These scholarships entitle undergraduate students to things like training, coaching, gym time, medical care and financial aid. If this is something you are interested in, it is imperative you keep up your club and school sports as those choosing awardees will be looking not only at your achievements but also at your dedication to your sport.
4. ‘We are all in the same boat’
When I was in sixth year and people said ‘we’re all in the same boat’ I often pictured the Titanic. This fact however, can be extremely comforting. The most relieving feeling is when you haven’t done work or studied is a friend saying ‘me neither’. If you are playing sport, everyone on your team or in your age group will more than likely be doing their Leaving Cert as well. They are going through the same struggles of juggling homework, study, grinds and of course training and matches. You can all reassure each other and rant about how awful everything is. Teammates go through big wins and the heart-breaking losses and can help each other on and off the court, pitch, or track.
5. Memories are forever
The Leaving Cert sucks and anybody who truly remembers it will agree, but it only lasts a year and no matter what anyone says does not shape the rest of your life or define you as a person. I consider myself lucky to be someone that liked school because spending eight hours every day somewhere you don’t want to be is awful. Despite the challenges, sixth year was my favourite year in school. I partially attribute this to basketball and dancing. Trips on the aged school bus, smelly bibs, missing the odd class for matches, late trainings, trips to different counties and all the team photos. Those memories will last forever.
Nothing should stop you from doing something that makes you happy, including the Leaving Certificate. Hobbies like sport keep you happy, fit and healthy, so whether it’s football, jogging, dancing, sailing, horse-riding or swimming, don’t let it go; the stress will mount and sometimes you’ll feel like you have nothing left to give, but it will end and you can look back on a year full of the good as well as the bad and the ugly.