Sport and study must mix: Lanning

Sporting and academic excellence not only can, but must, mix according to Australia cricket captain Meg Lanning.

The owner of the most centuries by a woman in One Day Internationals (ODI) will next month take possession of a tertiary degree after completing a Bachelor of Exercise and Health Science at Australian Catholic University.

It was an eight-year tale of balancing the all-consuming demands of playing, training and touring with the slog of higher education. But Meg insisted study remained as important as ever, even in professional sport.

“Cricket ends at some point and you need to have something else. If you put all your eggs in one basket you’ll eventually get found out,” she said.

Meg’s career – she made her ODI debut as a teenager in 2011 and first Test appearance two years later – has shadowed the rise of international women’s cricket to full professionalism. The average annual salaries of Australia’s top women are almost $200,000.

“The last three or four years has been the biggest change,” she said. “When I started, cricket wasn’t professional. Now it’s fulltime.

“It’s been an incredible change and there’s not as much time to put into study. That’s something the sport is looking at.”

The degree was a natural fit for the run-scoring machine. Focusing on the roles and benefits of physical activity and a healthy lifestyle, she learnt, among other things, the foundations of nutrition, psychology and biomechanics.

“If you love sport, like I do, it’s perfect,” Meg said.

Meg said she was unsure whether the degree would lead her into coaching at the end of her playing career.

“I’m thinking about continuing study because cricket’s not forever,” the 27-year-old said.

“I’m not sure (if I’d coach). I’ve done a little of that and I’m doing my level three course. This gives me some options, but I haven’t quite worked out my niche.”

During her time at the university, Meg was a member of ACU’s Elite Athlete and Performer Program which supports more than 430 student athletes and performers to balance their dual careers. The program provides financial scholarships as well as academic support and flexibility to ensure students are able to achieve excellence on and off the field.  

While she mocked herself for “taking eight years to do a three-year degree”, Meg argued her course work was often a welcome escape from cricket.

“I started out doing four subjects, fulltime, and attending every class. Cricket wasn’t as big a part of my life when I started,” she said.

“Then it went back to two subjects, then one, and I ended up doing a lot of it online to get the thing finished.

“Having the discipline to stick at it is the greatest challenge. It can be tough but the good thing about cricket is there is a little bit of downtime.

“But it’s true it gives you a bit of a mental break. Cricket’s one of those sports that you can spend a lot of time thinking about.

“You need that time away and Cricket Australia is really encouraging about doing things away from the sport.”

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