BSSC Year 12 student, Austin Robbins, is successfully combining studying VCE with being an elite swimmer.

Two weeks ago he was named in the state swimming team for 100m Individual Medley.

“I started swimming seriously in Year 7,” Austin says. “By the end of Year 10 I was focusing on butterfly, which is absolutely exhausting but I love it.”

While his swimming is developing in leaps and bounds, Austin takes his VCE studies seriously too.

“I have to be super organised,” he admits, “but I did choose all this!”

Austin began Year 12, with Units 3-4 Biology and Maths Methods already under his belt, which he believes taught him valuable lessons about what’s required to do well.

With space on his timetable this year, he picked up Extension Maths alongside Specialist Maths, German Language Studies, English Language and Chemistry.

“I love the way I am taught here,” Austin says. “The college offers so much support for independent learning. It’s such a relaxed and friendly place.

“The study periods are great too. It means I can get a lot of work done during school hours, or occasionally just have a break.”

His ‘hot study tip’ is to handwrite all notes. “Everything!” he insists. “You remember so much more.”

Austin is still to settle on a career pathway, but enjoys being with people, being active and being part of a community—factors that will ultimately guide his decision.

Despite his Mum’s sage advice to “do your best; your grades don’t matter” Austin is hoping for an ATAR that will give him a wide choice—and he’s planning a gap year to focus on swimming.

Austin’s work ethic and attention to detail, along with a commitment to making the most of his intellectual capacity, have brought him a long way.

He’s also faced up to some truly daunting challenges.

Just three months ago, he opened up on his social media platforms about the horrible struggle he’s had with an eating disorder.

Although Austin began 2020 with a good weight for his height and quite enjoyed the challenges of managing his own learning during the first lockdown, he was unable to swim because all pools were closed.

He started running to keep fit and was glad to be back in training once the lockdown ended.

“During the second lockdown, the loss of swimming somehow felt especially huge,” he says.

“I felt I was losing control of something incredibly important to me and honed in on what I ate in a really negative way.

“My weight plummeted. I have no idea how I managed school.”

Back in the pool once the lockdown ended, Austin found himself terrified of getting into the cold water.

“I think I was cold for that whole year,” he remembers, “and only had the energy to do about half my usual training.”

Austin’s coach and others kept telling him to eat more.

His Mum and Dad, desperate to help him, also knew what Austin needed, but were unable to convince him.

He reflects on his parents’ support and says they were “such a comfort” as he went through the process of sorting himself out.

As Austin began Year 11 he started going to the gym—potentially another way to exacerbate his eating disorder.

But something shifted.

“I began to see that if I was going to get where I wanted to be, I had to fuel what I loved doing,” he says. “If I really wanted to swim at a high level, I had to eat properly, be respectful of my body, learn to relax and stop pushing myself relentlessly.

“Our body is our vessel and we need to look after it.”

Austin describes choosing to recover as possibly the hardest decision he’ll ever make.

“I’m more proud of this decision than anything else I’ve achieved so far,” he says.

Despite this, watching the numbers on the scales go up was “scary”, but, with the weight gain came a wonderful and unexpected surprise.

“I began to feel happier,” he says.

These days, Austin is back in full swim training—with an exciting year ahead on the state team.

He’s also committed to looking after his body and general wellbeing.

Between school and training he catches up with friends and his brother, and makes sure there is time for relaxing with his family.

“I feel lucky these days,” he says. “I enjoy both my swimming and my studies and I’m so grateful for the way my family has always backed me.”

If Austin could travel back in time and offer advice to his 12-year-old self it would be about the dangers of perfectionism.

“I’d tell him not to constantly push himself—to relax and just enjoy swimming. Let go sometimes and don’t be self-conscious about your body.

“You’re going to end up swimming really well and loving it. You’ll be strong and fit and you’ll embrace the idea that every day is a new start and you don’t need to control everything.”