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nina morrison on the footy field

Tips to excel at both sport and schoolwork from an AFLW star

Are you passionate about sport? Join the club. As every aspiring athlete knows, building a great sporting career involves commitment, resilience and many hours of training. But when you also happen to be in high school, faced with the daily onslaught of class schedules, assignments and exams, it can be hard to balance your priorities.

If you’re hoping for a future in sport, you might find schoolwork taking a backseat in your life… but it doesn’t have to be this way. Whether you’re aiming to make it as a star player or not, succeeding in school could actually be the key to your long and successful career in sport.

But how do you balance schoolwork and sporting commitments in Year 12? It’s possible, says Nina Morrison, who is a shining example in both arenas. The Deakin University student managed to become the Geelong Cats’ AFLW number one draft pick in 2018, while at the same time smashing the VCE, attaining an ATAR of 99.75, in the top 0.3% of the state. She also played in the finals for the Cats’ VFLW team, finished equal best and fairest in the 2018 TAC girls cup competition… and did we mention she served as school captain of Geelong Grammar?

Want to know how Nina achieved such success – and how you can too? Read on.

nina and two other players on the footy field

You studied two Year 12 subjects in Year 11. How did that ease the pressure on your final year? Would you recommend it as a strategy to others?

Completing two Year 12 subjects in Year 11 was extremely beneficial and something that I would definitely recommend to others. If you are able to achieve two sets of marks that you are really happy with coming into Year 12, as was the case with me, it allows for a fair bit of pressure to be taken off you during the final year. As well as this, and perhaps most importantly, it means that you have significantly more time in which you can focus on only four subjects. In saying this, it is important to recognise that it is a significant workload to undertake in Year 11 and should be approached with the right levels of motivation.

How many team commitments did you have during Year 12 and how did you fit training, games, etc. in among schoolwork?

My main team commitments in the early part of the year were with the Geelong Falcons, which consisted of two trainings a week plus a match on the weekend. Whilst it made for a busy schedule, I found that this motivated me to use the small pockets of time I had wisely and work efficiently during these periods. I would use my two free periods each day to get a fair chunk of work done as well as the hour or so between school ending and training. Knowing that I would be tired when returning from training, I would prioritise study in most breaks during the day with the aim of finishing everything prior to leaving for training.

What were the best study strategies you used during Year 12 that you could pass on to the Year 12s of today?

I would recommend finding a routine and a place where you study best and sticking to this as closely as possible. At school we would have a set time to study each night which gave me a really good sense of structure which I could follow consistently. My biggest piece of advice however, and something I cannot emphasise enough, is to ensure you are studying without distractions! You will get a lot more done a lot faster when your phone is away.

Were there times you felt burnt out during Year 12? What did you do to relax?

There were definitely times when I felt burnt out and stressed; it’s hard to avoid in such a busy year. Although football was adding to this busy schedule, I found my sport a useful thing to give me a chop out from schoolwork and take my mind off study.

Nina with the footy

Do you have any stories of times that your school commitments clashed with your sport commitments, and how did you manage the juggle?

There were a few occasions during the year, in particular in Term 2 when the Falcons season was underway, where football games and school commitments clashed. On one occasion I came straight from the Principal’s Commissioning to a Falcons game, arriving just in time for the first quarter. In other weeks I would play a school soccer match in the morning and then football in the afternoon. During these periods it was important to communicate my commitments to both parties early and be willing to make compromises depending on the situation.

Why do you think it’s important for aspiring athletes to keep up their schoolwork, even if they’re aiming to become a professional athlete?

A sporting career is a relatively short window in the scheme of your entire life and it is hard to find yourself in the position where your sport alone is enough to be sufficient. Hence, it is important to have something else to come back to. Maintaining your studies allows you to keep your options open for the future.

Based on your experience as an AFLW player and a university student, what advice can you give to students still in high school about the skills that are useful for life after Year 12?

Being able to form strong routines and having self-discipline will hold you in good stead for life post-Year 12. After leaving school, a lot of the structure you are used to is gone, hence these are useful skills that will ensure you remain motivated in whatever you choose to do in the future.

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