March 2, 2023

Real Talk with Brandon Tang - Ep. 27

This week on Real Talk, I had the privilege of interviewing Brandon Tang, a track athlete for the University of Toronto. In this episode, Brandon teaches us how to navigate student-athlete life. Listen to the full interview as we cover the following ...

This week on Real Talk, I had the privilege of interviewing Brandon Tang, a track athlete for the University of Toronto. In this episode, Brandon teaches us how to navigate student-athlete life. Listen to the full interview as we cover the following topics:

  1. Transitioning from team to solo sports
  2. Day in the life as a student-athlete
  3. Navigating academic and athletic performance pressure
  4. Reflecting on experiences for growth
  5. Balancing sports and academics
  6. Advice for student athletes

Background on Brandon Tang: 

Brandon Tang is no typical athlete! He is an academic scholar studying computer science and statistics at the University of Toronto and a multi-sport athlete. Brandon began his athletic career playing hockey for over 12 years and made it to the prep school level at Milton academy in the ISL. Later, he transitioned to an elite track athlete and helped land UofT 2nd place in the country.

Check out Brandon Tang on Instagram!

Interested in being a Growth on the Daily Real Talk guest? Head to our website to register as a guest!

Follow Growth on the Daily on Instagram and LinkedIn, and subscribe on YouTube. And, of course, check out our website for more info!



Real Talk with Brandon Tang

[00:00:16] Intro

Rey Lambie: Hey guys. Welcome to Growth on the Daily, the personal development podcast for athletes. This is the podcast that helps athletes overcome the challenges we face every single day. I am Rey Lambie. I'm your host. I'm passionate about sports, I'm passionate about self-growth, and I'm so excited to get into another Real talk interview segment.

This week guys, I have Brandon Tang on the show. He is no typical athlete. He's an academic scholar studying computer science and stats at the University of Toronto, and he's also a multi-sport athlete. Brandon began his athletic career playing hockey with over 12 years of experience, and he even made it to a prep school level where he played at Milton Academy in the ISL.

He then transitioned into an elite track athlete where he has since helped land UofT, the title of second place in the country. So I'm super excited to have Brandon on the show today, and we're probably going to talk about a range of topics, but really want to focus on succeeding in student athlete life and balancing all that has to come with it. So Brandon, hi and welcome to the show.

Brandon Tang: Yeah. Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

Rey Lambie: No, of course. So why don't we start off with you just giving a bit of a breakdown of what brought you to the podcast.

Yeah, I mean, I like to talk. I think it's interesting always to talk about, I guess, yourself and reflect back on like certain strategies or you know, your experiences.

Brandon Tang: And especially with like, I guess we don't know each other too well, but it's definitely like nice to talk to other people about those things and then, Also, I don't know. I've been kind of getting into podcasts, so I think it's a, it'll be, I thought it'd be a fun experience, I guess.

Rey Lambie: A hundred percent. Well, I love to hear that and we're glad to have you here.

So excited to see what comes from this interview, but I know we have a ton to talk about. So let's dive right in.

[00:02:04] Transition from team to solo sports

Rey Lambie: I want to start off with you mentioning about your experience transitioning from team sports to solo sports. So take us through that journey. How did it go from becoming an elite hockey player to now a track athlete?

Brandon Tang: Yeah, so I guess, like you mentioned, so I played hockey for most of my life and then, yeah, just kind of suddenly, I mean, I ran a little bit of track in high school. I ran one, like, I guess one season, so like a few months, but nothing too serious. but yeah, and then decided to walk onto the track team at UofT and, yeah, it, it's a big transition, but again, like, I guess like it's still relative like sports and, in, it's in a team environment, but where you, I guess, compete for individual like you focus on your individual events and compete mostly for your own personal, records, I guess, and then to support the team.

I think the biggest thing was, I guess like in the team, you're more responsible for everyone, I guess like you have to make sure that, you know, you show up every day and that your performance affects a lot of the other people around you. And, I know for hockey, like, you know, like, you, like I would, if I had a bad game, you know, my line mates or whatever, you know, they would feel like, or they would affect them as well.

Brandon Tang: But, in track it's a bit different. I guess unless you're running like relays, most of the time, you know, your personal, like your personal performance has very little effect on,the team, unless it's in like a championship setting where I guess you have to get points and whatever, but you definitely feel a lot more responsible for, I guess yourself.

you're more, you have to be more accountable for yourself. I think your performance doesn't really affect, it's not directly correlated with everyone else's performance, but then again, it does add up to like a team score and whatever. And also I think,the environment's a bit different because, In a, in like a, in a team setting, like in hockey.

Brandon Tang: You know, you're really close with your teammates and, you know, you're working together. But in track it's a little bit different where you have to compete against your own teammates and that sometimes it's a, it's fun and competitive, but also times it can be very,difficult because you know, some of these guys, your teammates are like your best friends, your closest friends, and you have to fight with them for spots on the rosters or in like championship, races.

It can get, it's interesting.

Rey Lambie: Yeah, I can imagine that because like, I don't know, I'm thinking about my experience playing hockey too, and everything you're saying is completely accurate, right? Like you have like natural camaraderie and you know, everyone's kind of got their backs and it's like it's a teams game, right?

And that's, like you said, a completely different environment. Once you're entering a track world, they're just a solo sport world. but you're also kind of hybrid as you mentioned because you're still on a team. so you going to have to navigate those waters.

[00:04:41] Why the switch to track?

Rey Lambie: So I'm just curious, because I know you ended up walking onto the track team, but what was sort of the shift from leaving hockey in the first place? Was that something that you were initially trying to pursue at a varsity level?

yeah, I mean, I always, my, I guess my dream was to play like D1 for like an Ivy League or something, but, because of Covid, I couldn't play my senior year and I ended up just kind of, I mean, I always, I still thought about playing, continuing to play like juniors maybe, but then when I was like, yeah, when I got my offer for, computer science at UofT, I kind of thought like, playing another like three, four years of juniors was kind of not the route that I wanted to take.

Brandon Tang: I didn't want to like graduate much later than I guess I know. I mean, I have friends, some friends who still play juniors and they're still, trying to play D1, but, yeah, they're starting college like next year probably. So it's not something that I was. I thought about it and, it's not something that I wanted to do, so I was like, you know, going to college, I still wanted to play sports.

You know, I played sports my whole life, so I wanted to do something and I thought like track I had a good chance at versus like, I know UofT for example. Like they asked for like everyone to use their like junior eligibility up and just not something that I was interested in doing.

Rey Lambie: Yeah. And you know, it's funny you said that and because I can definitely relate to that.

I know a ton of people that, you know, they go that junior route and like, it's a hard game to play. I mean, not just the physical game, but like, you know, the decision that you're committing for those years to then really delay anything outside of sports in your life. Right? So, That's a big commitment, especially if you're trying to do like, I don't know, grad school or other programs, and you're like, well, I think at some point you have to pick like what's more worth it to you and what are you more, more likely to actually reach, right?

Because you also have the people who, you know, they make that gamble and then it doesn't really work out too. So one that's, you know, I commend you for kind of making that decision for yourself.

[00:06:30] Student-athlete life

Rey Lambie: So let's talk about your varsity life, your university life. So take me through like your typical week, like with school or even day with training.

Like how does that all add up?

Brandon Tang: Yeah, so I mean, generally speaking, the team usually has like two training slots, like one in the afternoon-ish, and then the main ones like in the evening, most people go to the evening ones. So we usually start around like 5:30pm and then train till like 7:30pm, 8:00pm-ish, depending on, depending if we have lifts or not.

So we have like, we usually lift like two or three times a week. In season. It's less, it's like twice or maybe even once a week. And then, yeah, so yeah. And like I said, in the fall we train pretty much like base training, so it's like every, almost every day. So, you know, we really get to the like, , it gets to build up a lot of volume for strength and whatever towards, so that when we come to the in-season, like in the winter, you're training like a lot less volume, just more like very high intensity, but a lot of like speed work.

So, yeah, you'll build a really good foundation. And we're also competing like every weekend pretty much. and, I guess like last year, cause with Covid there was like less traveling, but this year we've been traveling a bit more a few times to the US and then, I know nationals will be in Saskatchewan, so we usually travel like, and we go to Windsor and whatever.

So you travel a decent amount, class-wise and it's kind of up to you I guess, like depend on what kind of, time slots you like. I try to get all my more classes done in the morning so I can like, have a little bit time to do some work before I go to practice this semester. It is, usually have that class like 9:00 AM I don't know.

I, I used to think I'm a morning person, but not so much anymore. So, I know last semester my classes were later, like I start like 10am or 11am, so I gotta sleep in a bit, but I would stay up like pretty late. You know, stay up to like two and then wake up at whatever, 9 or 10 and then, yeah, like five, six hours of class and then go to practice and then do a little bit of work afterwards.

Rey Lambie: I mean, that's a lot in itself, but , I laughed when you said,I thought I used to be a morning person. And then I realized that I'm not, and I think every university student probably relates to that statement. just because the mornings probably just hit different,when you're studying in school.

That's hilarious. but cool that you're able to, you know, have that outlined and have a little bit more balanced schedule. But that's definitely hectic, like traveling a lot more, especially like every weekend. And you're in a competitive program.

[00:08:44] Navigating performance pressure

Rey Lambie: So how do you navigate, I guess, the pressure to succeed?

You're also, you know, you're, you go to U of T, like it's not an easy school. plus you're a varsity athlete. There's gotta be some performance pressure, not only, coming from yourself, but just sort of in general that you might feel just with life, sports, academics. So how do you feel that you navigate that?

 I'm a very prideful person, so I take a lot of pride in like what I do and like how I do things. So there's definitely a lot of pressure for that I put on myself mostly, I would say it's pressure from myself to perform well in, in the classroom and like on the track as well. in terms of pressure, I think it's really just the experience thing. I mean, I think I've grown a lot in the last, I guess few years basically transitioning from, I guess, high school to university and whatnot.

Brandon Tang: One thing I try to do is I just try to be more patient with myself. spend a lot of time, like I do, spend a lot of time reflecting on things that I feel like are not, I guess, important. And it's, I think that the key is really just to be patient and, give yourself time to, you know, to achieve these things that you want to do.

And to, I guess, like be humble about things. and, yeah, just take every day, be grateful for like, you know, certain opportunities and whatnot. I, I really just try to enjoy, like, enjoy the process and enjoy what I like to do. So not the results don't come right away, you know, it's hard, but, like for track, you know, one me could be bad, so yeah, a little bit upset for a few days, but then, you know, next week comes around, we compete again, so you can't really think too much about it.

Just, Just be, just enjoy it, I guess. Like just be out there with my friends, you know.

Rey Lambie: Yeah. And you know, everything you're saying, I'm just connecting to it and just, it's really resiliency that from athletics, right? that's honestly where I think it comes from because like you said, you want some, you li lose some and it's part of the deal.

not easy, but you know, you show up regardless. And so I think that's a really good sentiment. But you did mention something that I actually really loved, which was being patient with yourself. And I think that's something that, a lot of people will probably just really want to connect with that idea of patience because I feel, I don't know if you feel the same way, so Definitely,if you disagree, let me know, but I feel like our generation is very much.

Rey Lambie: They need to get so much done when they're young. And I just mean like in terms of like being successful and reaching like new heights and all this pressure to, you know, be the best that you can be so young because you know, we have all this access, there's resources, there's no excuse to you sort of not achieving and not making it. And, the idea of patience seems almost counterintuitive. Counterintuitive to that. And it's almost as if, you know what, like things take time to grow and to, to, to, to flourish. But you have to, you know, you gotta let that, like, marinate and put in that work for that to come into fruition, right?

And so I really, I really commend you for having that sort of mindset, because that's not easy to have at all. So I definitely love to hear that.

[00:11:39] How do you reflect

Rey Lambie: What is your sort of process in that reflection period that you mentioned? What does that reflection look like to you? Yeah, I mean,

Brandon Tang: I, I wouldn't say I have mastered that skill yet.

I mean, it is pretty funny because I was actually just talking, I went home for the weekend, so I'm at home right now. But, yeah, like I was just talking to my dad about, very similar things. cause I'm applying to trying to get jobs for the summer or like research opportunities and whatever and, you know, haven't heard too back from too many yet.

But, yeah, I was just talking to my dad and he's trying to tell me, you know, like just to be patient with myself and to. One of the things he's told me, just enjoy, like, you know, being young and like being able to play sports and whatnot. So it's something that I guess, yeah, like I said, I take for granted too often and I forget about these things, you know?

I think social media is like a big thing. I always see, like, or yeah, just like hearing about things or seeing things like on the internet, which is often like, it's like not very, it's not very good to like trust these things. Like I was like, it's hard to, I guess put into perspective, like whatever, you know, it's hard to, sometimes you can't really believe everything you see, but you know, there's so, it's so much information and so much like, like just content I guess, that you see and it's kind of overwhelming and you kind, it's easy to fall into that trap of like, oh, like this person's doing that, or I think this person's very successful because they did this, and you're like, oh, like I should be doing the same thing.

Brandon Tang: But, yeah, I think, . It's just easy to fall into that. and like I said, like, I just try to enjoy like the little things I guess, like being out there with my teammates and being able to spend time with them and stuff like that. .

Rey Lambie: I love that. I feel like you're focusing on what matters most and you're also like holding the people close to you, in those moments.

So that's amazing because I think I definitely agree, like social media and just media in general is a lot of noise. Right? And it's easy, as you said, to compare yourself to other people and somehow use that as a gauge to reflect your own performance, which I don't think is an accurate, measure. but I also think it's difficult to navigate well if it looks like this person is doing so well.

Like why? Maybe I'm not doing that because I'm not putting into practice and what they're doing. And then, you know, you get into this cycle, and that's a, like you said, a dangerous zone to be in. But you have to like ground yourself, like you said, and focus on what, like what do you, why you do what you love, right?

And for you, that's doing something, being able to move your body, play sports, connect with people and have, you know, enjoy that time with your friends. So I think that's amazing and I really hope that anyone listening to this interview, Takes that into practice for themselves because, especially younger athletes, because it's really easy to get into that negative mindset and that just, you know, hinders you right off the bat.

so definitely on there too. that's awesome. I really appreciate you sharing that.

[00:14:22] How do you balance sports and academics

Rey Lambie: One thing that I think, is beneficial for our listener here is to understand how you actually balance sports and academics. And I just mean in the sense of not just on like the workload and the sports perspective, with your training and volume schedule, but also in terms of kind of prioritizing, what you do, because, you know, there's only so many hours in a day.

and you also, like you said, want to enjoy your life. So what does that balance, lifestyle look to you and how have you found or at least working towards that balance?

Brandon Tang: Yeah, I think, yeah, the key word is balance. And, yeah, I mean it's, you really gotta find what works for you, for myself, I, I usually just try to set like, you know, the, I set aside like during the day up to whatever, like, I guess night, the night I'm, you know, every hour that I have, I'm trying to do something just chip away slowly at whatever assignment, even if it's due like, next week or whatever, you know, I just chip away slowly.

I usually, it is not, maybe this is not the best habit, but I try to just, even if it's just writing something like very simple down, like just attempting it, even if it's like a bad attempt, I just try to get something down and like try to get familiar with, whatever the assignment is or, the content is.

And. Yeah. And then, you know, I go to training, that's, I kind of take that as my like, big break in the day. You know, I set aside, you know, two, three hours, like when I'm at the track, I just focus on, you know, being there, working on whatever skills or, things that I have to do to improve my performance there.

So to really just, I guess like focus on like when I'm at school, you know, I'm focusing only on school. And then when I'm at, on the track, only focus on sports And then I over, over, like, by the time it's the weekend, you know, when I do have like a few hours at night, you know, when I'm, going to like, try to hang out with my friends and have fun, you know, that's what I'm doing.

So just find balance, you know, going, I guess like when you have time to really focus on things, just try not to, I guess, like get distracted or whatever. .

Rey Lambie: That's awesome. I think your idea of focus is, great. And it's just like being present in the moment, like you said, like just have, you know, you're doing one thing at a time.

And I also like the aspect of just putting something down, like you said, and I just feel like that's a big thing because I feel like many people procrastinate and I'm sure you also do. I think all of us do. And anyone who says don't. I really don't believe them. But I think the idea of just like start.

even though you don't really have the time to get anything, you know, tangible in there, it's at least a start and progress is progress. So I really like that idea, and I'm glad that's something that you do as I think a lot of people can, including myself, can learn from that, right? Like it's 15 minutes of working on something is, you know, better than nothing.

So that's awesome that you have found, you know, what works for you and you still also make time to enjoy yourself alongside, you know, being an athlete and an academic scholar, so that's awesome. So thank you for sharing that.

[00:17:14] Advice for student athletes

Rey Lambie: To end us off on this interview, I'm just wondering if you have any advice for anyone who's either an aspiring varsity athlete or current varsity athlete and how they can navigate student athlete life?

 yeah, the biggest thing is probably just to show up and, I guess be humble about like what you do and how you're doing it. . Yeah. It is just to be patient. not everything will come overnight, I guess. I guess that's a bit cliche to say, but it really is true. And, yeah, you just have to, I guess, keep your head down and really work whatever your goals are and to, I guess, enjoy, I think that the key is just really enjoy it.

Brandon Tang: So like I said, like I take pride in like what I do. So, you know, like when the results do come back, I, you know, that's something that I'm actually very proud of and, that's, that keeps me going to keep working. And, I guess it keeps me driven, keeps me focused, yeah, just, you know, some things, sometimes it's hard to see.

how like, certain things might help or whatever, but to just, you know, to be humble about it and just like, get it done when even when you feel like, you know, it's not useful or like it might not help just to get it done, just to be there, I think, eventually will lead to good things, even if it's not your number one, your dream goal or something.

You know, you'll land, I guess like relatively close.

Rey Lambie: I love that. That's a great way to end off this episode. I think our listeners are going to have a ton of key takeaways and lessons from that. I just want to thank you, Brandon for coming on the Growth on the Daily podcast. It's been a pleasure interviewing you.

I feel much closer to you now, so that's great. and excited to see where you take your track career and your CS degree going forward. So thank you so much for coming on the show. Just to wrap up this episode guys, this is our Real Talk segment with Brandon Tang. This is the Growth on the Daily Podcast, a personal development podcast for athletes where we help athletes overcome the challenges we face on the daily.

Rey Lambie: If you guys want to stay involved in our community, check us out on Instagram @growthonthedaily, and for all of our resources, on our website. All right guys. Thank you so much and thank you, Brandon.


Brandon TangProfile Photo

Brandon Tang

Brandon Tang is a former hockey player, most recently playing at the prep school level at Milton Academy in the ISL. While COVID seemed to have stopped him from further pursuing the goals that the past 12 years of hockey had accumulated to, he made sure to stay ready for any opportunity. With a few months of summer training, Brandon was able to walk on to the UofT track and field team as a short sprinter where he and the team would later finish second at national championships and Brandon would be named an academic all Canadian. He is currently a second year on the team studying to become a computer science specialist and statistics major. While the path to his current position may seem unconventional, Brandon embraces the idea of being different. He takes pride in being a high achieving student all while being an Asian athlete in two sports where very few Asians are seen playing, especially at the highest levels. Brandon follows after his parents who inspire and support him the most. As immigrants from China, they came to Canada with nothing and knew nobody. However, their hard work and determination has provided the opportunities for Brandon to play sports and gain long lasting life lessons.