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National team swimmer and Mediterranean College of Sport Ambassador Thomas Wareing on the challenges facing student-athletes and how the education system can help them reach their full potential.

When Thomas Wareing was a young student trying to balance his studies with his swimming training, he would often have to dash straight from a 6am training session to be at school in time for an 8am start, leaving him drained with a full day of lessons ahead.

While Wareing managed to navigate the challenges to establish a successful career as a national team swimmer, as well as reading for a Master’s in Exercise and Sports Science at MCAST, it is small considerations like these that he believes could make all the difference in a young athlete’s life and development.

“The Mediterranean College of Sport would have helped me a lot if I was still in school because it would have prioritised swimming along with my academics,” he says. “Simply starting a little later would have given me time to have breakfast and settle in for the day, instead of having to rush from the pool to school.”

The dual-career path championed by MCS, where athletic training and academic education are carefully balanced to ensure that neither suffers as a result of the other, is something that Wareing believes will be vital for the next generation of student-athletes.

“I decided to become an Ambassador for MCS because I always wanted to give back something that I thought was lacking when I was a student and practising my sport,” he says.

Wareing’s own sporting journey began at a young age and it has seen him representing Malta in various international competitions including the World Championships and European Championships, setting a number of national records in both long-course and short-course events in the process.

In 2022, he broke his own records in both the 100m Backstroke and 200m Medley within two days during the International Easter Meet hosted by the Aquatic Sports Association.

He believes the key skills that have helped him on his path, and that young student-athletes need to acquire in order to be successful, include self-discipline—“to work at your full potential and do what’s required of you”—as well as time management.

“In my sporting career as well as my academic years, I found time management quite hard,” he admits. “Since my sport requires so much time before and after school, there wasn’t much time where I could just focus on my schooling. When I was much younger, I wasn’t very academically-minded so I found it much harder, but as I grew up, I learned that time management is the key to success. You have to learn to put your head down and work.”

The education system, Wearing says, also has some catching up to do. “I’ve trained abroad with an international team in Hungary and their schooling system is completely different to ours. They don’t prioritise academics over swimming or vice-versa but find a way for them to work together. They’re not on opposite ends of the spectrum.”

He also believes the key stakeholders in the student-athlete’s life, from parents to coaches and teachers, all have a very important part to play. Parents, he suggests, should do their best to be a positive and encouraging influence in both facets of their child’s life.

Coaches and teachers, meanwhile, should work together to ensure the student-athlete’s development needs are being met from all aspects—something the Mediterranean College of Sport is well placed to provide.

“When young athletes are in an environment where everyone understands what’s happening in their life, everyone involved can take more important, more well-informed decisions, which prioritise bettering the student-athlete’s life in general,” he 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 October 2024 and will be housed adjacent to St Aloysius College in Birkirkara. For further information please send an email to cbonnici@mcs.edu.mt .