From high school to university, Team Canada athletes know a thing or two about having full schedules, dealing with stress, and the importance of a good night’s sleep.

And since we know back-to-school is definitely a little different this year, we asked some multi-tasking pros used to balancing their education and training and life for some suggestions on how students might set themselves up for success amid unusual circumstances.

Six athletes answered our questions and shared a few fun anecdotes:

Ana Padurariu – Artistic Gymnastics, Tokyo 2020 hopeful

Jacqueline Simoneau – Artistic Swimming, Rio 2016 Olympian and Tokyo 2020 hopeful

Mathea Olin – Surfing, Tokyo 2020 hopeful

Maxime Dufour-Lapointe – Freestyle Skiing, Sochi 2014 Olympian

Miah-Marie Langlois – Basketball, Rio 2016 Olympian and Tokyo 2020 hopeful

Sam Effah – Athletics, Tokyo 2020 hopeful

What’s your best athlete secret to prepare for a big performance… like an exam?!

Sam: Sleep, sleep, sleep! I find that if I’m not well rested, my attention span is just not there. Also, be sure to eat! I’m a morning person, so breakfast is really key in me staying fueled for my day.

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Miah-Marie: I try and learn a little bit more everyday. I find this helps me feel confident because as the exam comes closer, it is not new stuff I am learning, it is just review and narrowing my focus. I hate procrastination!

Jacqueline: If possible, try and train the same hours that you will compete. Before the Olympics, we train and get our bodies accustomed to performing at specific hours during the day that coincide with the Olympic Games competition time. I try and translate this when it comes to tests and exams – I study and do practice tests at the same time of day that I would be writing an exam.

Maxime: Sleeping! When preparing for an exam, my tip is to divide the studying into a few days to tackle one part at a time and get my eight hours of sleep every night!

Any tips to have a better school-life-sport balance?

Ana: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many people out there who are willing to support you so that you’re not always overwhelmed. Making time for self-care is also important as it is easy to get sucked into the stressful routine of things.

Jacqueline: Explore different time management strategies and find the best method for you. Once you find something that works, schedule your time accordingly, not forgetting one of the most important things: “recharging your batteries time”.

Sam: Find time to dedicate to school / sport and keep it consistent. Don’t alter the time that you dedicate to both, don’t procrastinate, and have a ‘blackout’ zone where you turn your phone off to avoid distraction. There will be times that you fail at this and that’s okay. The most important thing is to get into a routine of doing work and build from there.

Miah-Marie: Stay organized and plan but leave room for the unexpected because that is what life is.

What’s your go-to study snack?

Maxime: I realized that I don’t have the reflex to drink when I study, so to help with that I like to add citrus slices and mint in my glasses of water! Otherwise, dried fruit or raw vegetables are always a good option.

Ana: Dark chocolate! It satisfies my sweet tooth and also gives me a little bit of energy.

Mathea: Apples and peanut butter

Miah-Marie: Apples, tea and coffee

Jacqueline: Popcorn, carrots and cucumber with hummus

Do you have a funny back-to-school story?

Jacqueline: I was among the last few athletes coming home from Rio 2016 and school had already started. I remember getting off the 10-hour flight and after doing some interviews at the airport I immediately went to my physics class and didn’t even stop off at home first to change! I did not want to miss another day! That’s one back to school I will never forget!

Ana: In high school, when I walked into class, I was asked what school I transferred from. It was Grade 12 and I had already been going to that school for three years, but I guess many students still didn’t know me since I was always gone for training and competitions.

Miah-Marie: One of the most memorable stories I have is when my two older brothers and I walked to school matching in our Chicago Bulls jerseys. My older brother was Jordan, the second oldest brother was Pippen and I was Dennis Rodman.

Maxime: Every time I start school, I take a picture in front of the university with my mom. She also studied at the University of Montreal and she wants to take me to the first day of school every year. This is out little mother-daughter tradition.

What’s your best study hack?

Jacqueline: I discovered the Pomodoro Technique and have implemented this into my studying routine. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that uses a timer to break down work into intervals. I like to think of it as interval training but for my brain. I also try and build up my concentration when it comes to exam period to get in the habit of staying focused and seated down (which is usually the hardest part for an athlete) for three hours straight.

Sam: 1) When I think I understand a concept, I’ll test myself by explaining it to another person. If they can understand my explanation of the topic and say it back to me, then I really know the material. 2) Schools often offer free tutoring services that are not advertised. This was a major game changer in a couple of my accounting classes some years back. 3) Form study groups. Having 3 or 4 people studying the same course will keep you accountable to keep pace with the class.

Mathea: My biggest study hack is turning off my phone. Having absolutely no distraction really helps me focus and memorize stuff better.

Ana: I personally study best in public spaces such as a library since I feel judged if I go on my phone for long, so it keeps me motivated to study. And napping! Taking a 20-minute nap instead of trying to study when I’m tired is very helpful.

What would you want to learn more about? Is there one class you would like to take one day?

Miah-Marie: I would love to take philosophy and sports sociology. Athletes do have a strong voice.

Mathea: I’d love to learn more about the human body. I think our bodies are so amazing and allow us to do so many amazing things, so I’d love to take a human anatomy and physiology course! 

Sam: I would love to learn more about other aspects of marketing. I’m passionate about sponsorship and want to continue learning how companies, properties, and individuals create value. This is where I want to have a career.

Ana: I love science but one thing that I would like to learn more about are stem cells. I find it fascinating that we possess cells which have the ability to develop into many specialized cells, such as brain cells. With much research on the way, I think this will be a prominent treatment in the future.

Jacqueline: One of my lifelong dreams has always been to study medicine and/or dentistry. I am curious by nature and would love to study in this domain one day!

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned at school?

Sam: Patience and persistence are so important. I was never really ‘good’ at school, but I learned that if you put in the time and effort you will be successful. I may not be the smartest in the class, but I will put in some serious work until I understand it. Back in my undergrad days there were senior classes that allowed us to audio-record the lectures. I would re-listen to the lectures over and over until I understood the material.

Ana: One of the most important lessons that I learned at school is how to speak in front of a crowd. I did a lot of class presentations in elementary school which taught me how to preserve my personality while publicly speaking instead of getting nervous and shy.

Jacqueline: TAKE BREAKS! I find that as an athlete I already have a limited amount of time to study due to our 40-60-hour training weeks and a part time job. Naturally, I feel guilty whenever I take a break because I would like to make the most out of my little study time. However, over the years I have learned that it is sometimes best to take a quick power nap/go to bed early or take a breather in between study sessions. Just how recovery is an important tool as an athlete, breaks are essentially the same thing when it comes to studying. Sometimes a break to digest the material is what you need!

Miah-Marie: My mother always made us do our homework as soon as we got home from school so we could go outside and play! I still live by this rule!

Mathea: I’ve realized how quickly time and life passes. I’m going into Grade 12 and I feel like I was in kindergarten a few years ago, so just really enjoy every little moment and put 100% into everything because you’ll never get this time back and it all goes by sooo fast! 

Game Plan, powered by Deloitte, is Canada’s total athlete wellness program that strives to support national team athletes to live better and more holistic lives. Through the development of their skills and network, athletes are able to focus on health, education, and career opportunities both during their high-performance career and beyond. See how Game Plan can help you, register today!