Imagine training 36 hours a week, going to school in between and trying to fit studying in. Well, that was the reality for Henry who picked up rowing at the start of Year 11 and trained almost every morning and afternoon with only Sundays free.
He managed to find the perfect balance between his sport commitments and studies. Despite receiving an estimated ATAR between 60-70 at the end of Year 11, he transformed his results and ended up scoring an ATAR of 89.65.
So, you’re probably wondering, how did he do it, how did he manage of all it — is it even possible?
Well, we had a chat with Henry who shares his tips and tricks for finding that perfect balance so you too can succeed in your studies and whatever other commitments you have outside of school — whether it’s sport, music, drama, or something completely different!
Let’s dive in!
Tip 1: Make the most of your day
Each of us have 24 hours a day but it’s up to you as to how you use that time! For Henry to balance his sport commitment and studies, he really had to make the most of every minute.
“I think a lot of it was me realising that I can fit a lot into a day and there is actually quite a lot of stuff that if you want to you can jam pack into a day if you remove time on your phone or this or that,” he said.
“When you have the time to study, you have to study and you get it done,” Henry added.
That meant by the end of the day, Henry was fairly exhausted but had achieved a lot.
Henry told us that his busy schedule helped him with his study because “there was no other option” and he just had to get it done.
“It was like, okay, if I want to achieve these marks, and I also want to be able to row at this level, then I have to put them together and I have to do both,” he said.
Tip 2: Factor in time to study
Once he finished his afternoon training session which usually went from 3:30 to 5:30, he would have a quick dinner and then study at his school library for a solid two hours. If training finished early, he would get a 2.5-hour block done. Either way, he would do another hour of study once he got home before bed.
So, each day he managed to fit in around 3 hours of study. Henry didn’t have any training on Sundays — that was his one day off from training which meant Sundays were a big study day for him.
“I had to have the maturity to go okay, I’m losing hours throughout the week due to training and I have to catch that up on a Sunday…” Henry said.
“That’s just the way it was because other kids are getting, more hours of studying in the afternoon and if I want to keep the ball rolling and keep myself up with everything, then I think that’s the way I had to do it,” he told us.
Henry would spend anywhere between 8-12 hours studying on a Sunday to ensure he was on top of everything.
Tip 3: Know what works for you
“I very much understood the times when I was going to be productive,” Henry said.
Henry knew that he wasn’t going to super productive after a whole day of school and rowing sessions in the morning and afternoon.
“I’m never going to do anything too intensive, nothing that really, really requires like deep heavy thinking for me, because I found I just wasn’t productive in those moments and if anything, I was going backwards, because I get frustrated, I’d make mistakes,” he said.
So, that’s why he left the more intense and heavy subjects for Sunday because he knew he would be more productive and refreshed.
“I would never try, and you know, be a superhuman and crank out those hours then because I think you’ve got to understand that no one is a superhuman and if you’ve had six hours of sleep, by the afternoon, by the time that comes around, you’re not peaking,” Henry explained.
Tip 4: Be aware of what distracts you
At school, Henry left his phone in his bag and would only check it when he took a break — for lunch or dinner.
“I think I turned off my notifications completely, so even if it was with me, it wasn’t buzzing and distracting me,” he said.
“It just takes the maturity to be like, okay, it’s one year, I don’t have to be on my phone every five minutes, I can just put it away,” Henry added.
Henry also acknowledged that he is a chatty person and if someone started talking to him, he would get carried away but he had a tactic for dealing with this.
“I just put myself in a corner, headphones in with no music just so I couldn’t hear anybody and just knuckle down and get my work done,” he told us.
Tip 5: Dial back when you need to
Henry dialled his training back during Trials which meant he didn’t go to the early morning sessions — but he continued to train in the afternoon.
“I think in that period, I got the sleep back and… I was on a lot more of the day, I was a lot more focussed,” he said.
During this time, Henry continued to train and work out because for him, that’s like his study break and time to relax and reset.
So, he would study, do a workout or row to clear his head and refocus before going back to studying.
“Whether you’re rowing or doing whatever, if you’re going for a run or even just having a nap for an hour if that’s your break time, and that’s what you’re doing to clear your head. I think it’s really valuable,” Henry said.
How can you achieve your goals?
“I would say have the self-awareness and the maturity to understand your goals and what you’re going to have to have to do to rearrange your life for those goals,” Henry told us.
“If you want to achieve a certain ATAR, and you also want to do whatever you want to do in your sport, then you have to sacrifice and move certain things around to do that,” he said.
And that’s exactly what Henry did, and it paid off! He told us he normally isn’t a very organised person but changed that to ensure he made the most of each day.
“I think for me, it was the accumulation of days where I was organised and did the small things that ultimately made the big changes,” he said.
After Henry got his report card in Semester 2 of Year 11, he realised something had to change.
“I was like, okay, I really need to start kicking into gear now,” he said.
“I think a lot of it took a lot of maturity to look back and go okay, you didn’t apply yourself and it’s time to go back and relearn and refocus because I got to make up for the years that I didn’t put in that effort in,” he added.
Henry told us that sometimes meant going back to Year 9 algebra since subjects like Maths build on knowledge from the previous years.
Looking back, Henry wouldn’t do anything differently. However, he mentioned choosing different subjects if he wanted a better ATAR as he had to relearn a lot of the content from the previous years of Maths and Chemistry.
In saying that, he said, “But I think I learned a lot about myself with the subjects I picked.”
He said he “paid the price” for not focussing on Maths and Chemistry in the earlier years as he really had to work hard to relearn everything and at the same time, build on that knowledge.
But, he said scoring well in Maths and Chemistry at the end was really rewarding because he had put so much effort into those subjects.
Henry’s first piece of advice was to “focus in the moment”.
“There might be that hour block that you’re doing at the end of the night where you’re generally really unfocussed and it’s just that last little bit like putting your phone away or not being distracted with your own thoughts and just focussing,” he told us.
His next advice: stick to your schedule!
“It’s all well and good to say you’re going to do that stuff, but then actually committing to that schedule and going through with it,” Henry said.
“It was having a schedule and committing to it that ultimately got me over the line and improve my marks,” he added.
And that’s it!
It is possible to play an elite sport and achieve those HSC results you’re after! It’s all about balance, organisation and consistency — you definitely have to put the work in but it pays off, just as it did for Henry.
Curious about what ATAR you should aim for? Find out why you shouldn’t aim for a high ATAR.
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Tanna Nankivell is a Senior Content Writer at Art of Smart Education and is currently in Germany completing a year of study for her double degree in Communications (Journalism) and Bachelor of Arts (International Studies). She has had articles published on Central News – the UTS Journalism Lab and wrote a feature piece for Time Out Sydney during her internship. Tanna has a love for travel and the great outdoors, you’ll either find her on the snowfields or in the ocean, teaching aqua aerobics or creating short films.