Skip to main content
Student Blog

Five tips from a former athlete to get you through tough times


International Sports Management tutor Dr Corey Hicks shares advice on how to find the right path for you and stick with it.

Pursuing a distance learning degree in your own time can be a double-edged sword, if you find yourself struggling with it. Work, family, even life can take over, and you may find yourself wondering if the qualification is worth the time you’re putting into it. 

Dr Corey Hicks teaches Entrepreneurship as part of the Postgraduate Certificate in International Sports Management at the University of London. He is a medical director with over 20 years of experience working in the US pharmaceutical industry, an author and a former athlete. Here, he shares some advice for current students who are struggling with their degree.


1. Do a SWOT analysis of yourself

This piece of advice is not, strictly speaking, for those going through a tough time but those who find themselves at a crossroads. Whether you want to switch careers, specialise or decide whether finishing the degree is worth it, Dr Corey Hicks advises to do a SWOT analysis of yourself to figure it out.

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and is a technique used in strategic planning, usually in relation to business projects. However, the technique can be applied to an individual.

 “What are my strengths, what are my weaknesses? What are some of the opportunities I have? It could be additional training, going back to school [university], applying for a course,” explains Dr Hicks.

Pursuing a PhD is something that helped Dr Hicks himself change his career trajectory and opened the doors to the pharmaceutical industry. He looked at his previous experiences, saw the areas he lacked skills and knowledge in, and also considered what kind of job would be both fulfilling and could support his family. A SWOT analysis helped make the decision that brought him where he is today.

"Always play to your strengths, play to the things you know,” he says. 

2. Do something you love

Following from the previous point, Dr Hicks highlights the importance of doing what you want to do, as opposed to something that’s forced on you from the outside. It is simple, almost cliche advice, but there’s truth to it. 

“If it's something that you love to do, no one can sway you from it. You're going to find the time, you're going to do the things that you need to do to place yourself in a position to be successful”.

3. You get out what you put in

Flexible and distance learning requires more self-discipline and motivation than a regular, in-person course. And it is important to remember that the time you can carve out for your studies determines how much you get out of them. 

“Sometimes you have to be willing to put in your personal time to do the things that you need to do.”

Dr Hicks emphasises that this is why doing what you want is crucial. It can be challenging to make the personal sacrifices and find the mental energy to pursue a goal you don’t believe in. 

4. Envision your success

Mental imagery or visualisation is a very common psychological technique used in professional sport. It is no wonder Dr Hicks, being a former athlete himself, mentions it when asked about his advice for current students. 

The idea of visualising yourself in the position of success is applicable to anyone working in any role in any industry. Having a clear vision of your goal and revisiting it frequently is what keeps you on track when you might want to quit. 

5. Just keep pressing on

“It [studying for a degree] seems like it's an eternity, but it's not too long. You just have to keep pressing your way through”.

Easier said than done. Even a year dedicated to an intense course can feel like too much, and like the reward is too far removed. But on the other hand, this time spent on a degree or a certificate is still less time than it would take to switch careers or get to the next level without the necessary training, skills and networking that the course is offering you. 

If you’ve decided to commit to it, you might as well see it through. One day, the exams will be over, the graduation will take place, and suddenly you’re at the next stage of your career, having achieved something amazing – and with far more knowledge and skills than you started with.