FROM THE BLOG: Harriet Brown // WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A JUNIOR ATHLETE
Junior Athletes. What does it take? // by HARRIET BROWN
What does it take to become a successful athlete? I coach and mentor young aspiring junior surf life saving athletes. I love seeing the kids improve, progress and fall in love with their sport. I am often asked some pretty challenging questions that make me reflect on my childhood and my personal sporting progression; from a late starter 'have a go' nipper to achieving my dream of winning the World Ironwoman title. So after chatting with my family, junior coaches and fellow nippers from Ocean Grove surf club, I came up with the top five factors I believe kept me in the sport I love and lead me to pursue success.
It's so much easier to do something if you enjoy it. I fell in love with surf life saving about 20 years ago and still absolutely love what I do. I used to beg dad to drive me half an hour to Ocean Grove beach so that I could go board training with my friends. Us kids used to have a ball chatting, catching waves, shivering, staying in the showers for way too long and getting through the tough river board sessions that MG (coach) used to set. I especially liked going to carnivals, weekends away and training camps. Not much has changed since then. I still love what I do. Training at the beach every afternoon, travelling the world to race, and everything in between. Fun and enjoyment was, and always will be, my number one.
I didn't realise until I moved out of home at age 18 how much Mum and Dad did for me and my sister. They used to drive me to swimming in the morning, training in the afternoon, make me dinner, pack my lunch and cheer for me at every sporting event they could attend. They were encouraging, supportive and took an interest in any activity I chose at the time. They allowed my sister and I to make our own choices about which sport we pursued, even if that included five different sports all at once. This helped my self-motivation; it was always my choice to train. These values are still ingrained in me today.
NOT SPECIFYING TOO EARLY & KEEPING A BALANCE
This point is a little controversial. Every elite athlete follows a different path to success. Personally, I attribute my love of the sport and longevity to being involved in a wide range of sports, music and other activities. Up until I 18 years I was playing five different sports and it was only when I finished school did I decide to move to the Gold Coast and focus on my dream of making the professional Ironwoman Series. Most of my fellow competitors who were winning age group gold medals and focusing so hard at a young age have dropped out of the sport. Maybe if I had have committed solely to surf life saving earlier on I would have had greater junior success, but perhaps then I would not still be loving the sport and competing today.
A GOOD COACH & FRIENDS
To develop as a junior athlete, you need to train hard, learn skills and gradually progress. This can't be done alone. When I was growing up my coaches were very influential in helping me become the athlete and person I am today. They got me hooked on surf life saving, especially Mark Graham (MG), he just cared so much and always knew the right thing to say even if it wasn't what I wanted to hear. I demonstrated 'potential' in a few sports but preferred to go to surf training because I made some awesome friends there. We used to push each other hard and then laugh about it later. Some of my best friends are still from Ocean Grove surf club days.
A young athlete can have it all; supportive parents, a great program, friends and fun, but unless they are dedicated to improving, learning and being better every day then that athlete will not reach their potential. I remember some mornings I would wake up so tired for swimming training. I would start getting ready and Mum would come in and suggest I go back to bed because I needed to rest. I was so keen and was willing to push really hard when I was young. I have always been highly self-motivated. I don’t know whether this was taught or was within me but it has certainly helped me develop into the athlete I am today.
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