Athletics .. passion vs money to get to the top.

Since the age of 8

I have been doing athletics, starting at the UTS Norths Little Athletics club. I enjoyed running because i excelled at individual sports and loved the challenge of going from level to level all the way to Nationals. Thankfully my parents were a great support and funded many o myf trips to the national events and i got to travel all over Australia for cross-country and middle distance events. I also enjoyed having the time to train; my granddad who was passionate about Athletics really motivated me to train hard in order to achieve the results. Heading into highschool i continued Athletics whereas most athletes from Little Athletics ended up heading more into team sports as they found Athletics “boring or tiring”, so i knew my passion was in Athletics and i decided to take Athletics seriously from the age of 15. Once again, still without a job,  my parents continued to pay for all my events, all the gear and all the shoes as i was not so independent at the time. Even during highschool i loved Athletics. Athletics and Cross-country at highschool was not as highly regarded as Rugby even though at my school Marist North Shore we had one of the fastest white men alive Matt Shervington attend. To me i find it hard how running is not popular seeing its a universal sport- everyone can run and the key element to most sports is running. Running also keeps you in shape and healthy. I achieved many results in highschool along with national medals and for me it was so motivating to achieve the results.

From Highschool to University

After i left highschool, i really had to step it up a notch however of course my lifestyle was going to change as i had to become more independent and head to University. First year university and training was a real task, then of course i had to find a job to work as i didnt want to rely on my parents so much. I got a weekend job at a bar  and did that pretty much throughout my degree. Thankfully at uni i tried to motivate myself through relating alot of the tasks to sport as i was sill so passionate about it. During the years at university i continued keeping a balance with everything and i still continued to train hard and ended up winning nationals. In relation to the expenses my parents once again paid for everything which i was so grateful for as i was trying to make an independent lifestyle for myself. Socialising at university events was always difficult especially backing up to race on a saturday after a friday night. I tried not to drink but ill admit i did have a few drinks but once again the life style change set in.

I managed to still do athletics at a high level until i finished uni than as soon as i finished uni i had in the back of my mind- should i just focus and put all my effort into Athletics, do i need to be independent and work full time, or do i try do both?

Facing reality in the real world.

At this stage of my athletics career i really wanted to step it up a knotch and i was really wanting to pursue my dream of making it to the Olympics. For me i am such a determined person and i will do whatever it takes to get to where i want to be. I tried working full time, plus train and also fit in a social life. For all of you who work full time you would know how draining it is but i managed to just stick to most training sessions. I found that working for a company which wasnt sports related didnt make it easy for us athletes training for big events as they didnt understand the commitment an athlete has to take in order to reach the top. So on several occasions at this particular design firm wher ei worked the manager wouldnt let me leave even half an hour early to get to training. i found it frustrating for more than 1 reason. The first reason included the fact i couldnt get to training because i had deadlines at work, and the second was knowing without a job and a career i wouldnt be able to earn any money at all.

After not enjoying the first job and unable to do as many training sessions as i liked i then decided to get into an area related to sport as i hoped this company would be alot more leniant on my hours and when it came to training. The first few months were ok but once again i was so exhausted after sitting behind a computer all day and then heading off to training. My quality of training seemed to lack and i guess it reflected in my poor results. I always got the impression from my boss at the time that because “Athletics” wasnt a real sport it was a waste of time me attending training sessions which was so naive.

One thing non athletes should note that to get to an International level in Athletics,  tireless amounts of effort goes into each session which can take up 2 sessions each day- 7 days a week-  along with strength and conditioning sessions which take up alot of time on top of track sessions.  Its pretty much the same as working a full time job if not harder…

So my point is.. how does an Athlete make it to the Olympics or a world championship event if they need to earn money to make a living and be independent? If you work full time can you train full time as well without feeling exhausted? I spoke to a coach Carl Casaclang the other day about this issue and i think the reason why Athletics in Australia is lacking is because there is no support from Athletics Australia or the Australian Government which puts money into our up and coming athletes in order for them to continue sport from a young age so they can compete at an International level. I know that over in the States that if you are a top up and coming athlete you can easily get incentives and grants for you to get to where you want to be. I do know that these grants and scholarships come at a price with an exertion into training but at least it gives the athlete the chance to train and survive financially. outside of university or after an athlete finishes their degree unless the company they decide to work for is very lenient with training commitment it makes it almost impossible for an athlete to train at an elite level especially in Athletics. Unless also the Athlete gets sponsored there is no other financial means given to our Australian athletes in order for them to financially lead a comfortable lifestyle plus train. Many of our Australian athletes at the top, which is very few usually head overseas to Europe or America because there is so much more money to help athletes out which essentially allows the athlete to compete, train and even have their accommodation and food paid for.  I do know that Athletics Australia does invest in events like the Hunter and Sydney track classic but i would love to know how much our Australian athletes get paid to compete in that.

I know money seems to be a key aspect of this blog, however Athletes need to travel to America and European Grand Prix events in order to monitor their progress in relation to the rest of the world.

Im starting to realise that my dream of wanting to go to the Olympics is becoming a struggle because i am having to work full time in order to pay for the bills seeing i am 25. I havent even moved out of home yet either! I worked 3 jobs last year so you can imagine how hard it was to fit in everything. I strongly feel Athletics Australia needs to give athletes an incentive or a grant so an athlete can create a career out of Athletics and possibly afterwards if they do make it to an international Level such as through coaching, media and training or areas related to sport.

Many athletes who i have come across who are training for the Olympics are struggling financially and some have no sponsorship at all even if they have made it to an international level. Many have not even attended university so some dont even have a degree to fall upon after their career as an athlete ends. I really wish i could train full time and not have to work but the fact is i have to work like everybody else. I am currently working for a sports label in sales and design so it will be interesting to see how i go over the next year. I have found that unless you are in a field of work related to sport, no company will understand your commitments.

So if Australia is complaining about why we are lacking in high performance athletes on the track as compared to other athletes around the world ..well i believe  our lack of financial benefits could be a key reason.

I hope Athletics Australia starts a program soon where by athletes get paid to have a high flying career as an Athlete. If not, if my business in sports apparel succeeds i will give elite athletes the chance to pursue their dreams through grants in order for them to achieve their goals as im beginning to feel its so much more than hard work and determination to get to an International event. I feel if this happened, Australia would see so many more athletes on an international level getting amazing results. I take my hat off to Australias greats like Cathy Freeman, Sally Pearson, Steve Hooker, Dani Samuels and Jana Rawlinson as they all have medalled at an Olympics in the past 12 years and continue to strive. Im sure they would agree that Athletics in Australia is so underestimated and disadvantaged as compared to other sports. Its not until you receive International recognition as a medalling Olympian that you really get noticed or start getting sponsorship deals. Just for an athlete in Australia to be given an incentive to make it to an Olympics would be enough as Australians are hard workers and im sure no matter which athletic event would succeed on an international level with a little bit more financial support from Athletics Australia.

Passion and Hard work is one thing, achieving a high result on an international level is another but without financial support it makes life as an athlete 10 times harder especially when you start working full time.

As for me, ill continue to train and work full time inrder to make a living for myself but i guess ill either have to save up over a year then take a year off to train full time so i can travel the world to compete so i can improve and achieve my ultimate dream of making it to an International event. I hope i can make it to the olympics in athletics as i am so passionate about it!


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