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Mid West Academy of Sport athletes mentored by local AFL star
15 October 2014
Mid West Academy of Sport Developing Champions Workshop Wednesday 15th October
story by Kate Bobridge (Developing Champions Facilitator)
The 36ºC day was a little bit of a shock for poor Harry Taylor landing in Geraldton that morning from Geelong, where he is based playing for AFL super team Geelong FC. The morning run took a little more than usual out of him after having to make a quick adjustment from a more moderate 14ºC the day before in Geelong. But, tough as it was, he committed to the run. Despite being in 'off-season', this is not a complete rest with total inactivity for all players. Certainly not the ones who want to make it through a gruelling AFL pre-season with some dignity and minimised pain.
Life as an elite athlete is challenging, rewarding, hard, disciplined and enjoyable. These were some of the things that Harry was in Geraldton to share and talk about with the Mid West Academy of Sport (MWAS) scholarship holder athletes. These emerging athletes are young, talented and hoping to make the way to the tops of their sports, just like Harry has done.
See Harry's player profile on the Geelong FC web site HERE
In a recently re-established partnership between the Western Australian Institute of Sport (WAIS), the Department of Sport and Recreation (DSR) and MWAS, the group of athletes were part of a Developing Champions Foundation Core workshop.
Moving a little outside of their comfort zone, we spent a lot of time discussing things that athletes can improve mentally, and through personal management that will enable them to perform better and hopefully lead to a long, successful sporting career.
Harry, with his ever-present red Sherrin footy (as you can see below), shared some of the techniques that he uses to prepare for games, to stay confident, to kick on goal (and be as accurate as possible of course!). While he is a footballer, all of these skills are transferable to other sports, which is what the Developing Champions program offers; a chance for young athletes to learn these types of generic high performance sport skills, and then ensure they go back to their own sporting environments and implement changes that are going to help them improve - specific to their needs and skill gaps.
An interesting lesson was also that athletes should never underestimate what they can achieve. Harry spoke about his early junior years whilst playing Football for Northampton (not far from Geraldton) where he believed that WAFL would be the highest level that he could ever make. It was not until many years later when he realised that he could play in the AFL. And he not only achieved that, but when on to Grand Final glory.
Whatever the equivalent of an "AFL Grand Final" is to these, or any, young athletes - keep striving and looking for ways to improve - is a message from Harry that personally paid off handsomely. And the fact that these messages came from someone who was born and grew up in this region added extra weight. He knows what it is like to grow up and play sport in the country, to have to travel to Perth, eventually make a full-time move, and all the associated things that come with being a regional athlete.
One thing Harry, Chris (CEO, MWAS) and I spoke about after the workshop, and in fact we talk about a lot in sport, is that regional athletes often do have to take a harder path than metropolitan athletes, especially as juniors. But of course there are pros and cons. OK, sure maybe you don't have as much opportunity for frequent higher level competition, or the luxury of always being able to travel 10 minutes from home to the local stadium for a game, or always having first class facilities on your door step. Sometimes you grow up playing with and competing against a wider range of competitors, older, faster, stronger (maybe not as talented, but nevertheless, being 14 and playing in a senior men's comp can still be pretty intimidating), which teaches you a wide range of skills. And you live and learn the rigours of travel from an early age.  It's like the saying "they breed 'em tough in the country". It doesn't come from nowhere! We can't fit EVERYONE to the same mould, but regional athletes do tend to have this kind of grit, this mental toughness that makes them not only survive, but thrive as an athlete! And we see this time and time again with regional athletes at the top level of high performance sport.
So use that, go forward and add your natural talent, to your country grit, along with the skills and tools that Developing Champions has taught you, and the lessons learnt from listening to Harry Taylor - to make huge strides towards being a happy, healthy and successful athlete!

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