There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going. By Oscar Coggins

Henry Wright

Check out an article written by Oscar Coggins, 2020 Olympic hopeful. Oscar Coggins is a Hong Kong Elite Triathlete aiming to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Triathlon. Here he shares his story through the last couple of years of school, offering tips and advice to those of you who have a heavy training load on top of your school work. Oscar currently swims in the SCAA Performance 2 group.

There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going.

By Oscar Coggins

With a new school year underway, I’d like to share some practical advice about balancing school, training and exams. I completed my A-Levels in June this year (2018) whilst training 20 hours per week and undertaking a full race schedule.

Between March and July I competed in six international triathlon union (ITU) races, two of which coincided with exams. 

I set two clear goals which provided the necessary motivation to undertake this difficult task:

Goal 1. Achieve a minimum of A*AA in my exams that would gain me a place at Loughborough University to study Engineering.

Goal 2. Win the Junior Asian Champs and score valuable qualification points towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.


Here are my top tips on how to get your study and training done and to keep your passion at an optimal level.

Positive Mindset

A clear and positive attitude helped me keep a good balance between training and work. I would treat training sessions as study breaks, which motivated me to do both. It isn’t possible to study effectively for more than a couple of hours at a time. Going out training refreshed me, and by the time the session was over, I was looking forward to hitting the books. I also found this mindset helped my training. Considering it as a “break”, rather than another task helped me start sessions with a better attitude leading to better performances.

Sleep and Nutrition
In order to recover well and have enough mental and physical energy, nutrition and sleep are essential. In my most intense week I had 6 exams in the span of 4 days and still managed to put in over 20 hours of training. I prioritised 7-8 hrs sleep every night by running a strict school, revision, and training schedule. Nutrition was also a priority with the aim of starting each session in the best possible condition, ensuring I didn’t fatigue. Planning the right types of food for before, during and after each training helped with this. Keeping it simple and discussing the strategy with my coach gave me peace of mind.


Team Work

Throughout this whole experience I was extremely thankful for the support of my family and coach. They worked together throughout my 2 years of A-levels. One such example was their communication when it came to holiday time. Ensuring I could spend time with family in a location and at a time where training could still take place was often discussed. Knowing I had them there as a safety net gave me the belief I could get everything done and achieve my goals. My recommendation is to work with people that you believe in, are as driven as you, and have experience in getting the job done.


Goal Setting

My two major goals mentioned above were devised using the “SMART" acronym. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. These goals were always in the back of my mind and focused on during tough times. Writing your goals down and having them somewhere visible (e.g above your desk) can help. However, on a day to day basis I focused on enjoying the process and all the benefits competitive sport and education have to offer.

Stick to the Plan

A good coach will provide a plan to ensure the best chance of achieving your goals, but it’s up to you to follow it. Most of my training done at school was completed alone, meaning I was responsible and accountable for completing it all. I had to plan ahead when, where and how I could do the sessions set for me. The earlier you plan ahead, the more effectively you can train and the fewer sacrifices you have to make. As I’ve progressed as an athlete I found more people wanted a part in “helping” me achieve my goals. I would say that more influence doesn’t correlate to better results. Trust your coach and the plan he or she has set out for you.

To conclude: after a busy and nerve racking wait, my exam results came through as A*A*AB in Physics, Maths, Further Maths and Economics respectively. I managed to keep up my training to defend my Asian Junior Champs title and followed up with a 6th place at the World Junior Champs . My University places have been successfully deferred and I am on track with my Tokyo 2020 qualification. 

I hope my advice has been helpful or inspiring. I suggest giving it your all. Remember there are no short cuts to anywhere worth going.