Often when someone decides to pursue a high level, competitive sport, they are faced with having to make a choice between that passion and other life commitments such as study or work.
For Wellington’s Georgia Daals however, she was able to simultaneously pursue her successful rugby career and business degree studies thanks to the flexibility she found with Open Polytechnic, New Zealand’s leading provider of online and distance learning.
Where her journey began
Georgia first began her tertiary studies with the New Zealand Institute of Sport’s Diploma in Sports Management in 2012. Throughout the course of her studies at NZIS, Georgia realised that she enjoyed the business side of her courses more than the sport aspect and decided to pursue a management qualification.
Open Polytechnic offers an advanced standing pathway between sports and other management-related diplomas and its Bachelor of Applied Management degree, so it was the obvious next step.
Finding the balance
Studying by distance with Open Polytechnic meant Georgia could keep playing rugby while getting her degree plus integrate her love for sport in her projects and assignments. “I wanted to ensure that I had a qualification behind me as a backup plan in case my career in sport didn’t turn out how I hoped,” says Georgia .
Georgia opted for distance learning because it allowed her the flexibility to revolve her studies around her busy tournament and training schedule instead of the other way around.
“I would typically study at mid-day because I would often have morning trainings and then night trainings daily. If I ever had mid-day trainings, I could compensate for my study and take it up again when I had time.
“Because of this, studying by distance really was the best option for my training and allowed me to do both things successfully and simultaneously. I would never have been able to prioritise both school and this level of sport had I opted for a traditional classroom environment,” says Georgia.
Adapting to a new learning style
Like many new distance students, the more independent study journey took Georgia some getting used to.
“At the start it was challenging to learn without the face-to-face contact with lecturers or tutors, but after some time I got used to it and I grew to really enjoy being able to handle the workload on my own terms and at my own pace.”
Having the support she needed
Georgia says that what helped especially was the access she was given to the Open Polytechnic’s resources. “One of my favourite things was that the tutors were always very responsive and would help me right away via either email or phone. They were always there when I needed them.”
Living her rugby dream
This past July, Georgia attended the FISU World University Championship tournament as part of New Zealand’s Tertiary Women’s Seven’s team. Hosted by Swansea University and British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS), the 7th World University Championship competition welcomed 20 rugby sevens teams (10 male and 10 female) from across 16 nations.
Georgia and her teammates finished in 9th place but Georgia says that she was just proud to have been involved and to have gained the opportunity to travel and play internationally, all while continuing to work towards a degree.
“I felt super stoked when I found out I’d made the team. I was so excited to be able to represent New Zealand abroad and get the opportunity to travel. I would say the highlight of the trip for me was seeing the skill level that exists outside of New Zealand and getting to compete on an international level.”
In the future, Georgia hopes to continue her rugby career and represent New Zealand on either the Black Ferns or Sevens national teams.
In the meantime however, the ambitious 22-year-old plans on continuing her studies towards a career in management, while enjoying rugby, travelling and learning to surf.
Proud of her achievements
“I never thought I’d ever be able to say that I represent my country playing rugby and am also working towards a degree, so I’m pretty grateful for the chance to have been able to do it this way. I think above everything else, my Mum is the most proud since I’m not only the youngest in the family, but also the only one to continue on to tertiary education.”