Student VOICES – Olympic Change Makers

Sharing the voices of our student leaders, this week we hear from Year 11 student, Sarah Marriott. Sarah provides a reflection on her experience at the Olympic Change-Maker Program.

I am honoured to be St Catherine’s nominee for the Australian Olympic Change-Maker Program in 2021.

The Australian Olympic Change-Maker program recognises students who are demonstrating the Olympic spirit – friendship, sportsmanship and striving for excellence – both on and off the playing field, through leadership and driving positive change in their school or local community.

The theme for 2021 is #BETHECHANGE – inspired by the changes we all have had to make and continue to make to adapt to the variabilities and disappointments caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of the application process, I had to make a short video about change moments, achievements and my work in the community. COVID-19 has, and continues to throw challenges at us all, demanding we become more flexible and resilient; this is similar to my everyday life living with Type One Diabetes, so for me, my most significant change moment came in 2017 when diagnosed.

Since then, I have used sporting opportunities to show that a chronic illness does not need to hold you back from achieving School, Victorian and Australian team selections in various sports; while at the same time helping other diabetics and raising money for Diabetes research to hopefully find a cure.

COVID-19 has forced all of us to adapt – not being able to train on the water has allowed me to use the online ergo and strength and conditioning sessions as opportunities to improve.

On September 2, I attended the Australian Olympic Change-Maker virtual forum hosted by Brooke Hanson OAM, Athens 2004, gold and silver medallist in swimming. Over 900 student Olympic Change-Makers from across Australia joined virtually to hear from four inspiring Olympians who generously shared their journeys and experiences. The Olympians were:

  • Kyle Vander-Kuyp, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Australia’s greatest ever 110m Hurdler, Tokyo 2020 – Indigenous Liaison Officer
  • Zac Stubblety-Cook, Tokyo 2020 – gold and bronze medallist, Swimming
  • Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar, Tokyo 2020 – silver medallists, Beach Volleyball

The forum was truly inspirational – Kyle, Zac, Taliqua and Mariafe were all so open and generous in sharing their good, bad and sometimes ugly experiences.

Their lessons, mantras and quotes provided something that all change-makers present would have been able to take away from the forum. Here are some of their quotes:

  • (In training)…I really try to be better than I was yesterday.
  • You are a person before an athlete. Be a good person then you can do your best as an athlete…and don’t forget to smile!
  • It’s ok to doubt, but then…re-centre, re-focus, focus on positives, focus on the things you can control – effort, attitude, try your very best, be the best you can be.
  • Wear green and gold with pride to represent your country, team and family – not just yourself.
  • Enjoy the journey – all the ups and downs, as without the downs you won’t appreciate the ups!
  • Enjoy your journey – don’t let anyone tell you, ‘You can’t’.
  • It’s not all about winning but taking part.
  • Excellence has nothing to do with luck – it’s all about hard work.
  • Set your mind, set goals, have values, respect, be driven.
  • You need a good team and mentor around you.
  • You can achieve it – so set big dreams!

My favourite take away however, was from Zac Stubblety-Cook who spoke about how essential it was to gather a good team around you and the value of a mentor. His mentor told him time management was crucial and to think of a time period as a bucket. Zac went on to explain:

“When you’re busy it’s very easy to get distracted and lose focus. You need to be good at time management and have a structure that suits and works for you. Think about and plan your bucket:

  • Add the big boulders first (non-negotiables)
  • Add smaller pebbles (shake to fit in around the boulders)
  • Add sand to squeeze even more in
  • ..and when you think you can’t possibly fit in anymore – add water to settle and balance your bucket!”

For each of us, our boulders, pebbles and sand will all be different in number, size and composition but the need to plan is true for us all. We need to fit as much as possible into each stage of our lives.

At St Catherine’s, we are so lucky to already have a great team around us to help manage us and balance as much as possible into our buckets. Whether academic or co-curricular pursuits, we have teachers and coaches in place ready to go, but first we need to set our goals – so set big dreams – everyone can achieve!

Another one of my favourite takeaways came from Mariafe who throughout the additional year of training leading into the Tokyo Olympics stuck to the manta of, “try to be better than I was yesterday,” which helped her stay motivated to train hard and be prepared and as fit as possible to compete at her very best. I can associate with her, especially at the moment whilst we are in lockdown, as we do ergo and strength and conditioning sessions online, and to help me stay motivated, I just visualise how good it is going to be to get back in a boat on water!

Rather than dwelling on what has been cancelled, we need to be grateful for what we have – amazing teachers and coaches who have worked exceptionally hard to pivot learning and training sessions online.

I am truly honoured to be an Australian Olympic Change-Maker and am excited to both drive and be a part of the change!

Sarah Marriott, Year 11