We chat to Micheal Zhang, who’s dream is to train and study in the US! We get some great advice on how he balances sport and study as well as some time management tips that keep him on top of his game.
As a student athlete, I think the hardest thing you have to do is maintain a balance between your tennis and studies. I am currently studying and training as part of a program that ensures I have time to do both, going to school from 8-2 and then training from 2-5 on most days, which makes it much easier to fit everything in. However, it is still extremely hectic for me, especially during exam periods or tournament blocks. The thing that I think has been most beneficial for me personally, has just been to never lose sight of the importance of ensuring a harmonious balance – rather than getting carried away with one. This means using your time effectively and constantly working towards achieving your goals in both areas. When you have exams, make sure that you are still doing what you can to improve tennis – use the small time (mornings before school, lunch, before dinner) to train or even just do a few minutes of fitness. When you have tournament blocks, make sure you are still studying after your matches or when you have free time. Just making sure you are always motivated to achieve your goals in both areas is the most effective, and hardest, thing to do to be a student athlete.
The two time management tips that I have found most effective, especially in the past few years, are making lists and using the small time. I always have a list of tasks that I aim to achieve both for the short term and long term. This gives me clarity into what I need to do and when I need to do it by, which makes life a lot less stressful. Using the small time is also something that I have been doing a lot more of lately. I try to use every opportunity I can to be doing something productive. For example, reading on the commute to school and from training and doing small pieces of homework at recess.
Most days, I will wake up from 5:30-6 and get ready for school. I leave the house half an hour later, and usually either have morning training from 6:30-8 or morning class at school from 7:30 -8:30. I go to school from 8:30-2, and then leave for training. We get picked up from school and go to training at Sydney Olympic and hit for about 2 hours. After training, we have up to an hour of fitness – either running or gym. I end
training around 5, and take the train home. I usually read or do work on the train, but if I am very tired I will just unwind and relax. I get home at 6:30 and have a shower and eat dinner. I start studying around 7 and do homework/study for 2-3 hours. I try to have breaks every hour or so, interspersing the studying with stretching and recovery, but if I am really busy I may not have the time. I will go to sleep at around 10 on most days.
Thoughts on College
I am really pumped for college for many reasons, but predominately for the chance to truly experience America by studying and training overseas, meeting new people and gaining a once in a lifetime experience. I also think competing as a college team against other school will be completely unreal: I have had a taste of the passion and energy of a team environment at the All Schools Nationals, but hear college is a completely different level.