Get to know Maddie Garrick – an elite athlete juggling the stress of studying

Image courtesy of Maddie Garrick's official Instagram

I sat down with Maddie Garrick who has been playing with the WNBL side Deakin Melbourne Boomers for the last three years. It was just recently announced that she had re-signed with the Boomers for her fourth season for 2018/19. An already busy life for Garrick being an elite athlete but she has also been studying with Deakin University online and on campus since 2012, studying her Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science. Garrick speaks about how she juggles both playing national level basketball and studying her degree, what it’s like being an athlete and how to cope with the stresses of sport and studying. 

Maddie Garrick on what is it like re-signing with the Boomers

“It’s been pretty great, I think being a club for four seasons you can really build relationships with people within the club but also the members and the coach and I think that’s really important for success. There’s been lots of support having me back which is always nice and the fans have reached out and said they’re excited and that makes me excited to go again.”

On the vibes around the Boomers home

“I think we’re going to be pretty good. I think from two years ago we were kind of unsure whether the Boomers would be around, from what they’ve built over the last two years particularly last year the success we had. I think the vision is to get better. Obviously we were successful but we fell just short.”

“The goal is to win a national championship and I think the team that we’re building will be in contention for that. We’ve got some super exciting talent coming in.”

On her Deakin University journey 

“I started in 2012 and I was in Bendigo at the time so I spent three years in Bendigo and I did it online for those three years and then when I moved to Melbourne to play SEABL first then the Boomers I started to come on campus and it was just so much better. But it was awesome to be able to study something that I was so passionate about at an amazing university online and be able to do both things.”

On why she chose exercise and sport science

“I guess for me it’s very relevant to what we do, so I can apply it from strength and conditioning to sport performance to sport psychology so I’m learning stuff about myself as well but applying things that I’ve learnt at uni.”

“As an athlete, I’ve always been interested in how the body works and I think as you get older and specialise in a sport and wanting to be an elite athlete. I was always thinking about ways I could improve myself. From a strength base, from a mental base, I always wanted to seek out ways to be better than the people around me and the body really interested me and how it works and strength and conditioning and all of that. So I guess that’s how I got into it.”

“I said wanted to be a physio but I was never 100% sold on it and then I went to the AIS where I did a lot of strength and conditioning there and I loved that. It interest me why we would do certain exercises, why the body compensates for things and how it all connected.”

“I went through an eating disorder when I was 15 and that’s about health and stuff like that. I wanted to be better but it turned out that I went about it the wrong way. Then after that, that was probably where it really sparked about the body because I was sick of the way I was feeling and how I was performing, it just became something that’s always been important to me.”

On studying while basketball season is on

“I’m always asking questions to people here at uni and also out support staff, the strength and conditioning coaches, the nutritionist just because I have that awareness and it’s something I’m interested in and obviously as an athlete that’s going to help me perform and get better.”

“In season there’s a demand for training and appointments like physio and all that sort of stuff every week. I kind of try to plan my study schedule for times where I can sit down for a period of time. I guess I’m also someone that if I’m not in study mode then there’s no point in me studying, so I’m flexible where I study and the uni has been great assisting with any issues I’ve had but it’s hard at times.”

“I train a lot more than I study and that’s one thing about my course, when I finish and graduate I’m thinking of not jumping straight back into studying. I’m thinking of going back to what I’ve learnt and what’s interested me and really diving deep into that because I think sometimes with all the commitments we have with basketball there’s not a lot of time to really do that extra study to understand it completely.”

“I’m someone that I needs to read things a couple of times so it takes me a little longer to understand and I ask lots of questions. For me to really get it to sick, I need to read it a couple of times.”

On how she overcomes challenges she faces juggling studying and basketball

“There’s a lot of stress with juggling both so I guess stress and time management have been the biggest things for me. I’ve been lucky because it’s something that I do, sports science is very relevant to playing basketball and being an athlete so there was always that connection somehow.”

“So if I’m not into studying there’s no point doing it but if I am into it then I just keep going until I can’t concentrate anymore. Whereas, before I would say that I just need to do it and would study but I wouldn’t even know what I did so there was no point. The stress of feeling like there’s a lack of time and having the pressure of I want to perform well on and off the court so having that pressure as well have probably been the biggest stresses.”

“A lot of support staff I work with are from Deakin so they have an understanding of that too. I work with Dom Condo who is a nutritionist, Fraser Carson a sport psychologist and Durham McInnis at Core Advantage. But to overcome those challenges I’ve worked a lot with Fraser managing my time and stress and knowing triggers of stress and knowing my personality.”

On her biggest supports throughout her career and studies

“First and foremost, my family, they support me in many ways. They help me financially when I need it and when I’m stressed I call them up. Luckily enough both my parents are in the medical world so when I have issues or found something interesting I’ve always gone to them about that stuff and learned from them in that way. But just the general support that they always give me and they’re always motivating me, supporting me and it makes me want to make them proud.”

“I also think it helps now that Deakin is a naming rights sponsor, so the connections we have with the club now and the support staff around that. I’ve worked a lot with Fraser managing stress, performance, studying and everything, it can get really busy sometimes so he has played a major part. But just the support networks through the club and the club with the partnerships between the two.”


Maddie and some of her family 2018. IMAGE courtesy of Garrick’s official Instagram.

“Guy (Boomers coach) also has been really helpful. A couple of times I’ve had exams on training nights or you know you might have a stressful period and he is just like take the night off. If you have a coach that doesn’t understand everyones personal needs and how they’re feeling, it makes it very difficult and burns out. He has been great, the clubs been great and the partnerships have been great.”

On how she has been able to cope with the all the stresses 

“I never used to be great at it when I was younger, I used to bottle it up and then when it all got too much everything all just came crashing down. Since working with Fraser, even just identifying why I feel a certain way, identifying my feelings and why I might feel like that and how to deal with that has been a massive change and then putting strategies in place to managing stress but you can’t do it without identifying your own triggers.”

“I’ve needed help to do that and I’ve found out on my own over time to get through things, like when I’ve needed help about basketball or anything. I like to go on court and put my music in and not think about anything but at the same time that doesn’t really deal with some issues of work stress or study stress. That’s where these strategies having to deal with that has been really helpful.”

On how important it is to look after yourself mentally and physically 

“I’ve always been someone who has been really stubborn towards how psychology and sport psychology works, I know it’s beneficial but I was like I find it doesn’t work but that’s because I was so close minded towards it. Through doing my uni it opened up my mind to know just how powerful the mind is and how much you need to particularly as an elite athlete to train your mind and train as much as you do on court. That has really interested me and something I think I might even do later, I’m not sure but it’s just interested me that much and pardon the pun but it has blown my mind how important it is.”

“I’ve always known you have got to be mentally tough, you know believe in yourself and it is easy to say that but to really understand how your thoughts work and to dissociate yourself from the negative thoughts and how to do that.”

“Obviously the way you feel mentally will dictate how you feel physically. You can be physically strong, you can go to the gym and get stronger but you if you don’t feel great you probably won’t perform well. These two things are important stuff. I’ve always focused on the physical side and physical and talent will only get you as far it you can. But they say games are won between the ears and the most elite athletes and gold medalists are in control of their mind.”

On being able to study with Deakin but pursue the dream of being an elite athlete whilst working as well 

“I think it’s really important for a few different reasons. There’s only a certain amount of time you can play sport. For athletes, there is a life after sport and to be able to study and have something set up that I’m interested in to help transition into the life after sport, I think that’s really important.”

“I’ve also really enjoyed it and found it useful. Particularly in season when it’s really full on, you’re around team mates all the time, you’re training all the time, it has been nice to just get away and focus on something that’s different. Even though it’s sport science it’s relevant and that’s also the good thing about it, it’s been great and helps with stress.”

“i’m someone who needs my space, I’m someone who likes to be on my own, so it’s been good to focus on something different that’s not basketball all the time or performance. Also for women in sport, even when I’m not playing, I’m coaching or doing something else to earn some money because that equality and pay isn’t quite there yet but it’s getting better and I definitely need to have something on the side to help me pay for essentials of life.”

On how she always knew she wanted to be an athlete as a young child

“I loved sport, I was never inside and I didn’t really like being inside but even when I go home now I’m the adult child. I go home and I have to be doing something, it’s nice to sit down and read a book or watch TV but after an hour I have to get up and do something. That’s how I was as a kid, I wanted to play sports and I think that just set me up to have an athletes mind set of wanting to do something and wanting to achieve something.”

“I just love sport, I love the people I met and particularly through basketball I’ve felt I’ve connected with people the most and it was a fun sport. I always saw myself as an athlete, I don’t think I knew what I wanted to be when I was younger but I also saw myself as an athlete.”

On people thinking about wanting to study as well as play their sports

“I would say don’t be afraid to do it. It will take a lot of time management

Game face. IMAGE courtesy of Garrick’s Official Instagram.

skills so reaching out to people and support staff to be able to help manage your time and prioritise your time to study and your sport. Find strategies to help with that time management and stress and knowing how you respond to stress but it’s great.”

“If you want to study as well, I think you should and don’t be afraid to do it.”



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