Sport & University – A Concurrent Pursuit

Find out from ANU Commerce Student and Australian Swimmer, Ben Treffers, the value of participating in sport whilst completing tertiary education.

ANU Student, Benjamin Treffers (age 22), will next month be representing Australia at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Ben will join the esteemed Australian swimming team, competing in the 50m and 100m backstroke disciplines. Securing his place on the team, however, hasn’t been a straightforward task. Ben has had some heartbreaking results in past years, temporarily putting his rise to the top on hold. Yet the Canberra local has managed to come out the other side a more resilient athlete, with the drive and passion that inevitably led to his selection. There are a number of factors which have led to Ben’s successes, but none more so than his ability to balance his swimming pursuits, university studies and social life.

In 2009 Treffers failed to gain selection for the Australian team to compete in the World Championships by less than a fingernail – 0.01 seconds. No more than a year later, the same painstaking margin prevented his selection in the 2010 Commonwealth Games swimming team. Finally in 2012, Ben missed the London Olympics by 0.11 seconds in his pet event, the 100m Backstroke. Nevertheless, at the Commonwealth Games trials in April this year Treffers made his long-awaited breakthrough. Ben secured second place in the 100m Backstroke and an astonishing first place in the 50m Backstroke, smashing the Australian record. Although his close misses in previous years may have been hard to swallow, Ben believes that those moments have allowed him to mature. “I have become a more resilient athlete which has meant I can go out there and compete with less fear about the results”.

Treffers is currently in a period of heavy training leading up the Commonwealth Games in late July. A typical week will entail 10 training sessions in the pool, swimming approximately 4-5km or 1.5-2hrs per session. As part of these 10 sessions, three are high intensity in an attempt to reach peak lactate levels. Additionally, Ben has to find time to fit in three gym sessions per week before resting up over the weekend. The Australian Swimming team are currently at a training camp in Cairns, before returning home for a three-week taper period prior to competition.

Amid such a heavy workload, how does Treffers find the motivation to complete his Bachelor of Commerce? In his eyes, it’s simple, “I definitely wouldn’t want to be just doing sport. And same goes for University, I wouldn’t want to just do that.”

It’s all about prioritising, but not to the expense of either of his commitments. Swimming has allowed Treffers to stay healthy and maintain a balance between his work, University and social life. Over the past 12 months, Ben has only begun to realise the importance of having both University and sport in his life. Whilst the old adage “there is always life after sport” remains true, Treffers explains that “trying to find the life during sport” is equally as valid.

With less than two years left of his Bachelor of Commerce, Treffers has started to think about the future, beyond his degree and even beyond swimming. Like in any sport, he has the ability to draw upon the experience and wisdom of his past teammates for advice. “I plan on talking to some of the ex-swimmers who were once in my position and working now. Getting advice on what my options are and what will compliment my degree”.

Not only is sport a great avenue to stay fit and healthy, it can also have a positive influence on one’s personal development. “It’s definitely going to have its payoffs down the track,” as Treffers says.

When asked if Ben had any advice of his own for any one ANU student, he mentioned that sport it is often the best thing for your study. The ability to having balance is important to a holistic approach to life. He finished by expressing that, “you can’t take life too seriously.”

ANU Sport would like to congratulate Ben on his chance to represent Australia at the upcoming Commonwealth Games. We wish him the best of luck in all his future sport, university and life endeavours.