The Mediterranean College of Sport speaks to its Ambassador for Athletics Janet Richard on the challenges and sacrifice required for success, and what student-athletes need to thrive.
As one of Malta’s most accomplished athletes, setting new records on the track while also reading for a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology at the University of Sheffield, Janet Richard knows how challenging it can be to balance sports and academia. Her personal experience is a large part of why she chose to become an Ambassador for the Mediterranean College of Sport, which she believes will be a huge boost for young Maltese athletes.
“Many people think sports is just a hobby, but I made a decision at a young age, when I was still in school, that neither my academic nor my sporting career was going to take precedence over the other, and vice-versa,” Richard recalls. “I made a lot of sacrifices and had to develop a lot of self-discipline. That means paying attention to everything from what you’re eating to how much you’re sleeping, until it becomes so natural that it no longer feels like sacrifice.”
Her personal experience is a large part of why she chose to become an Ambassador for the Mediterranean College of Sport, which she believes will be a huge boost for young Maltese athletes.
“A school like the Mediterranean College of Sport is important because it promotes a dual career,” Richard explains. “Sadly, when I was in secondary school, I didn’t find that support from my school. Many times, I had to choose between my exams and representing Malta in international competitions. If I’d had this opportunity, I would have seized it right away. It’s a huge help, and anyone who has the opportunity to attend this school should take it.”
Richard’s dedication has served her well in an athletics career that has seen her break a number of national records and represent Malta in several prestigious international competitions, including the European and World Athletics Championships. Her many achievements include a national record of 53.49 seconds in the 400m at the European Championships in Munch, Germany in 2022, bettering her own time set in the 2020 National Championships, where she broke a record that had stood for 19 years.
“I don’t plan on stopping here, and I’m going to keep working hard to improve my performance,” she says.
Richard believes some of the most important skills student-athletes hoping to follow in her footsteps should master include time management and self-discipline, to cope with the demands of their training and studies. “It’s also important for athletes at a young age to develop a strong character and to learn to say ‘no’,” she adds. “‘No’ to going out too much, no to alcohol and long nights out that are going to affect their training and performance.”
At the same time, she says, there is still a lot of room for improvement in the education system itself, with a lack of flexibility in timetables often resulting in student-athletes having to miss lectures or training due to clashes.
Richard also thinks it’s crucial for the different stakeholders—including coaches and teachers—to coordinate their efforts in the best interest of the student-athlete. “Often young athletes have so many different voices coming from all directions that it can cause a lot of stress and anxiety,” she asserts.
“The fact that, in a set-up like the Mediterranean College of Sport, you have a whole team working together for the benefit of the student-athlete creates a very positive atmosphere which I believe will be reflected in the athlete’s performance.”
Parents too, Richard says, have a key role to play. “It’s important for parents to be positive and support their children in both their academic and sporting careers,” she concludes.
The Mediterranean College of Sport is set to be one of the most pioneering educational and sporting facilities in the Maltese islands, aiming to develop future athletes of international calibre. The co-educational college is set to open its doors to students in September 2024 and will be housed adjacent to St Aloysius College in Birkirkara. For further information please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .