As winter break approaches, most students at Harvard have their minds set on finishing their final exams, papers, and projects. However, Ngozi Musa must find a way to balance her academic responsibilities with her commitment to track.
“It’s all about time management and organization,” Musa said. “You have to have a set schedule. I’m going to study for this class for this many hours and then go to practice and then study again. You have to be very disciplined.”
This discipline is fundamental to the success of a track and field athlete, and that is especially the case on a bustling weekend like this. Time is at a premium, but with that being said, Musa has dealt with this before.
The team held practice on Saturday afternoon but this session was shorter and lighter than a typical practice. On the day before a meet the athletes are given a bit more freedom. They get to pick and choose a few things that they wish to work on in preparation for their specific event. For Musa, this meant a combination of multi throw and lift.
Preparation for the meet doesn’t just stop after this last practice, though. There are several important things to do the night before. One crucial piece of the puzzle for Musa is just staying relaxed and not getting too stressed out. Furthermore, getting to bed early and sleeping a lot is another top priority.
“Stretching before I go to bed is something that I like to do,” Musa said. “It helps to make sure that my body is ready and prepared for the meet the next morning.”
On this occasion Musa had to arrive at the track by 11:00 a.m., so she woke up at 8:00 to give herself plenty of time to get ready. She then made sure to grab a balanced breakfast.
“When you’re at a meet you’re going to be there for a while,” Musa said. “You need something to fuel you so making sure I had breakfast, I’m bringing snacks, and making sure I’m hydrated [are very important].”
Heading over to the track earlier than she needs to is another important aspect of the captain’s routine. It allows her to stay calm and collected, and focus on the meet itself instead of scrambling at the last minute.
Musa also employs a few other strategies to maintain a state of relaxation. Listening to calm music in the morning is one thing she enjoys, and another is meditation, both before and during the team’s warmup. This meditation is something that Musa’s coach has integrated into the program in order to help with the team’s mental preparedness.
“A lot of track is physical but it is also mental,” Musa said. “If you’re in the wrong mental state before you’re running then your race is probably not going to go so well. You have to be in the right mental state and stay focused…. If you’re not focused properly then it could cost you.”
Unfortunately, Musa’s day was cut short after warm-ups. Nagging hip and hamstring injuries were not fully healed so her coach made the decision to rest her instead of potentially aggravating the ailments.
At this point the senior had to make the transition from a competitor to a supporter. As a captain it is her responsibility to make sure that her teammates are prepared for the meet as well. Now without the added pressure of worrying about her own events, Musa put her focus into doing just that.
“You have to figure out what everyone needs in order to help them prepare,” Musa said. “That’s what I need to talk with my coach about — how, as a captain, I can do a better job of helping my teammates focus and figure out what they need to do to run a successful race. Whether that means making sure that they’re pushing out of their blocks or whatever that looks like for everyone [individually].”
This is a valuable skill that every captain would like to improve on and perfect. There are many ways that an individual can contribute to their respective team, and this is one that is often overlooked. After you put yourself in the best position to succeed, you can make a positive impact by making sure others are in a similar situation.
On a day when Musa was sidelined, her team fell to the Quakers by a score of 63-41 in Cambridge, Mass. Despite this loss, sweeps in the 60-meter dash and 60-meter hurdles provided a bright spot for Harvard on the day. The group will have a long time to prepare for its next meet on Jan. 11, the Harvard Multi Meet.
Nevertheless, Musa’s responsibilities as a student now come back to center stage. The end of a semester is always hectic, and that is definitely the case for a collegiate student-athlete as finals approach.
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