My daughter, Ariarne, is 17 years old, and she’s always had a flair for swimming. From a young age, growing up in Tasmania, she showed natural technique in the pool. Since winning her first state championship 6 years ago, Ariarne has been on a long journey of determination and commitment, culminating in three golds and one silver at this year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
While that journey isn’t over just yet, with new goals and targets now on the horizon, it’s been amazing to see her achieve all of these accolades – especially knowing first-hand what was involved. Being an elite athlete is not a part-time occupation and Ariarne has made a lot of sacrifices to get to where she is today. Nine training sessions per week, on top of the groundwork that you have to do to maintain a peak level of performance (gym work, cardio, and so on), is a lot for anybody to take on. That’s without even mentioning the regular pressures of being a 17-year-old – study, homework, exams, all of which she has to contend with.
It takes more than physical strength to be able to juggle all of those things and perform at a high level. That requires a certain mental toughness. Ariarne’s nickname amongst her peers and coaches is ‘The Terminator’ – because she’s resilient, tenacious, and not afraid to back herself and go out there and get after it, even when the odds are stacked against her. I find that so inspiring. I’ve learned so much from her mentality, and think there are many aspects that we can apply to our lives and careers.
The first step is to understand what you want to do. Ask yourself what you want to achieve. For Ariarne, it became clear fairly quickly that she was set out not just to win state championships, but to be the best in the world. That was the mindset. From there, work backwards – how are you going to get to that goal? What are the steps you need to take? Think about where your skills are now, and what you need to add in order to reach your goals.
The second is to be courageous. Take a chance, and make others want to take a chance on you. With Ariarne, our family needed to move states in order to have access to the best coaches and continue her development. This put even more pressure on her to succeed, but she was able to be resilient through an enormous change to her lifestyle, and thrive. I faced a similar challenge when we moved to Brisbane, and joined OnTalent. In Tasmania, I was in a comfortable position in a market I knew well, and the move was a big adjustment. However, our Executive Director, Natasha, showed confidence in me to do the hard yards, start again in a new market, and succeed. Much like the relationship between athlete and coach, a respectful, trusting, and consistent relationship between employee and employer is critical.
Finally, and arguably most importantly, it’s about the choices you make. What do you want out of life, and what are you willing to do to get there? Do you want to be a participator or do you want to upskill and reach for a leadership role? Whichever direction you’re more interested in, commitment and discipline are key. Ariarne wasn’t necessarily the most naturally talented swimmer, but her work ethic more than made up for that, and now she is reaping the rewards of making those sacrifices and doing everything that she could to improve.
The environment you’re in also has an enormous impact. I’m lucky to be part of an organisation in OnTalent who have been so supportive, and who have really embraced myself and my family. OnTalent have built a culture where employees feel like they are valued; that they’re contributing and that those contributions are appreciated. Thank you all for making me feel so comfortable and for supporting Ariarne in her sporting career. Being able to share this journey with you all has been amazing.