Dare to Dream
It was hard not to be inspired over the final weekend by the Tokyo Olympics when Australian athlete, Nicola McDermott cleared a personal best and set an Oceania record of 2.02m and became an Olympic silver medallist.
Social media went into overdrive as Australians celebrated her success and ever-present smile. I enjoyed reading about Nicola, her positive life choices – she works as a youth worker, studies Biochemistry at the University of Sydney and has made a very conscious decision to be public about her Christian faith.
Interestingly, at the age of nine, Nicola wrote a poem about her dream of going to the Olympics, “going to the Olympics is my greatest dream” she recites in her poem High Jump Dream. Upon reading this I reflected on our 2021 Student Executive theme Dare. Dare to Dream and the importance of being brave with your goals.
Sport has always been a passion for McDermott, but it was not always apparent that sport would reciprocate. “She wasn’t great at Tennis, she wasn’t great at Swimming,” recalls her father, Ian. “She did a bit of Basketball – she had the height, but not the coordination.” McDermott is even less complimentary. “I did dancing – terrible, no coordination,” she says. “Swimming – terrible, no upper body strength. Tennis – terrible, no coordination. But my parents just let me keep trying. We went to a Little Athletics carnival in Year 2 without any expectation and I pretty much won all the events.”
While the Covid-19-induced postponement of the 2020 Olympics was a blow to the dreams of many athletes, McDermott describes it as “a blessing in disguise,” both physically and mentally. “I didn’t realise how much the Olympics meant to me before it was taken away,” she says. “Since then, I’ve seen my world ranking soar, my consistency improve. I’m ready.”
I am certainly in awe of her perseverance and focus, and like many curious about her incessant journaling after each jump. What is she writing? Her coach, Matt Horsnell, concedes it is a unique psychological tactic. Indeed, sometimes competitors find it off-putting. But for McDermott, it works: “That helps me detach the emotion from it all. It focuses me on action – what do I need to do next. I never get 10 out of 10, there is always something to work on.”
Journaling is strongly recommended during times of turbulence in our lives. It assists in improving moods by helping prioritise problems, fears and concerns. Monitoring daily moods, feelings and symptoms through journaling can also assist in recognising triggers and learning ways to control them more productively, in addition to providing opportunities for positive self-talk. Like Nicola, it focuses you on action – what to do next.
I am encouraged by Nicola’s persistence and tenacity towards her “High Jump Dream” and urge all our St Catherine’s students to continue to find their dare to dream, drawing on their own strengths to persevere through current and future challenges. For Nicola, the fear of an Olympic Games that may not eventuate was soon realised as a blessing in disguise.
It is also important to remember that whilst McDermott may now be an Australian household name, the high-jumper is not an overnight success. For the past decade she has shown grit, determination and resilience to continually hone her skills; each year equalling or improving her high jump best through unrelenting training and personal commitment. The culmination of over ten years work to achieve her ultimate dream.
As our Year 12 students prepare for their futures outside of St Catherine’s, our Year 11 cohort prepare for student leadership in 2022 and Year 10 students finalise their course selections, I encourage them to not only look towards their exciting futures but take pause and reflect on the culmination of their hard work, grit and perseverance, the investment they have put into reaching their own goals throughout their school life.
Undoubtedly, Nicola dared to dream of competing at an Olympic Games and at 24 years of age, some 16 years after her poem, the dream is now a reality.