In the morning hard white balls are being hit at me 100km an hour from 10m away… occasionally they miss my padding and I come away looking like I have lost a fight. In the afternoon, when time permits, I head to the hospital to take away the pain of others whilst working as a nurse. One minute I am putting my body on the line to win my sport, the next I am trying to care as best I can for the body of others.
As an elite athlete I am a firm believer in having balance in my life. In sport this is a topic that often comes up and from my experience I would say opinions are certainly divided. Elite sport, as with any job, requires a huge commitment of time, energy, and mental focus.
Hockey is one of those sports that require a full time commitment (6-7 days per week) yet isn’t funded enough to support the athletes with a full time wage. We are very lucky to have support from the Australian Government and our fantastic sponsor Ausdrill, yet as with many sports in Australia that are not televised we struggle to provide a platform for major sponsors to gain exposure, and therefore can’t generate huge amounts of money. So in turn we must find other ways to earn a living.
Now do not get me wrong, this is not a blog about how poor hockey is as a sport and why we should be paid like the footballers. More money and recognition as a national team sport would be fantastic but in fact I believe it is a good thing that we are forced to have careers outside of our sport.
Growing up my parents always instilled in me the importance of having a well-rounded life. I played many sports, learnt an instrument and studied hard but always had time for activities with friends and family. Occasionally I required a little nudge to get my homework done but besides that I was encouraged to undertake any activity I wanted to, whether work or play. I had a casual/part time job from the moment I was legally able to and have had some sort of job ever since. While a necessity, work for me is about doing something you love not just about earning an income.
I started training with the Victorian Institute of Sport during years 11 and 12 and more seriously once I finished school. I debuted for Australia in 2006 and started Nursing at University the same year. Somehow I managed to study full time for three years, work 1-3 shifts at my job, all whilst regularly competing for Australia internationally. In 2008 I was required to take the year off as we were training full time for the Olympics and I was required to move to Perth.
Since graduating from University I have worked as a Neurological Rehabilitation Nurse at Royal Perth Hospital, which I absolutely love! I started working full time initially but have slowly decreased my load over the years as the hockey commitments increased. I am currently working three shifts a fortnight with it mostly being on a Sunday, our day off. It took me a long time to find the current balance I have and it was not without some heartache. I love my job and wanted to give the hospital the greatest commitment I could yet it is so difficult when hockey requires an even greater commitment. Our training sessions with the Hockeyroos are all fixed times and compulsory so there is little room to move. We can travel up to three months of the year so as you can imagine we are not the most employable people going round. Luckily my employer is very flexible and allows me to choose all more shifts plus take leave whenever required.
Working as a nurse provides me with amazing perspective. In my daily life as a hockey player I worry about perfecting technique, getting strong, eating healthy, not getting injured and selection. When I am at work I am helping people who have lost their ability to walk, talk, eat and do many simple tasks for themselves. The stresses of sport become very insignificant once I arrive. I feel that these 21 hours each fortnight not only help me to be a better person but also a better athlete.
The trick to it all is balance. Hockey is my priority and does require the greatest commitment, but by being organized, planning ahead and communicating, I am able to fit work and plenty of fun into my life. It would be the best advice I can give any athlete. Being successful in sport doesn’t have to mean giving up other things you are passionate about.
Within our squad there are plenty of girls with qualifications but only a couple working regularly. This does change year-to-year depending on our tournaments. Over half the squad is studying at Uni and many choose coaching as a way to earn pocket money.
I asked my good friend and teammate Jill Dwyer to share her experiences as she also lives and trains in Perth yet works fulltime in her profession.
What do you do for work and how long have you been there? I work in the head office for a mining and engineering company called Monadelphous and have been for the last 4 years.
Tell me about your hockey career so far? I was fortunate enough to debut for the Hockeyroos when I was 20 and played in the test series in Rosario in Argentina at the beginning of 2011. Since then I have been in the development squad and have missed out on selection for the last few years. Half way through last year, I felt myself improving and starting to match the level that was required for selection. Unfortunately when things were looking up, I was struck with the fierce injury that no athlete wants to come across, a ruptured ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament).
How did things change with your injury? After surgery I knew it would be a long road to recovery – I had at least 9 months of rehab ahead of me and the thought was very daunting so I just took each month at a time and really focused on doing everything I could in my control to assist my knee to the best possible rehab. Now I am at the brighter end of the tunnel with possibly 2 months to go until I am back out there playing.
What’s your weekly schedule look like? Since doing my knee, my weekly program has been individualized to suit my rehab and my financial needs (work). Currently I do all of my rehab in the mornings from 7-9.30am, this includes gym, bike, swimming, individual skills, fitness running and boxing. I then start work at 10am and finish around 5/5.30pm Monday to Friday. This year I am also one of the co-coaches for the YM Women’s Div 1 team – the club that I have been playing with for 4 years. So on Monday and Wednesday nights I take the group for trainings and then coach the game over the weekend.
How do you manage your time? I make sure I am very organized with my weekly schedule planned out and each night I make sure I pack my bags and food for the next day’s activities. I make things work and try to squeeze in as much as I can so that I have a balanced life and healthy weekly lifestyle.
How important is flexibility with your boss and coaches? I am very fortunate to be employed by Monadelphous and to have flexible bosses. They are very understanding of my hockey commitments and allow me to train and to do my knee recon rehab inside of work hours. It is also great that the coaches and rehab staff schedule in my training sessions at appropriate times as I am not a scholarship holder and so I need to rely on work financially.
Why do you do both when it makes life so busy? I choose to both work and play hockey not only for financial reasons but also because I think it provides the perfect balance for elite athletes. It has taught me great time management skills and to always be organized and accountable. Due to the limited hours at work, I have learnt to work at a fast efficient pace and know that I can always get my job done. Playing sport has also assisted me in being the dedicated person that I am and to always give 100% in everything I do. It also gives your mind a break. When I play hockey I can just concentrate on what I’ve got to do and I block out all other distractions. When I am at work my mind gets time off and away from hockey which is important so that you don’t go crazy thinking about it 24/7 and it gives you a healthy mental and physical break.