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Developing Champion riders
20 February 2011

by Amber Bradley: former WAIS Rower; Olympic medallist; World Champion

On Sunday, February 20, I made the lengthy, but scenic, drive out to the State Equestrian Centre in Brigadoon. The purpose of my visit was to co-present a "Developing Champions" workshop to a group of 14 young and talented riders. My role was to share some of my own experiences as a former sportsperson and offer some advice to the youngsters on what it takes to be a modern-day elite athlete.

The lengthy drive out to the venue gave me a lot of thinking time. And while lots of ideas drifted into and out of my mind, the two most obvious chains of thought were ... (a) do the young athletes I am about to meet live nearby? I hope so! And (b) can I even recall what it was like to be an elite athlete? Again, I hope so! Thankfully, both of these questions – and many more - were answered during the three-hour workshop.

I posed the first question to the group relatively early on in the morning. And while most said they didn’t live near the SEC, they pointed out that they only used the venue for the occasional competition. Most of their training was done elsewhere. But that didn't mean they didn't fit a fair bit of travel time into their hectic lives. One girl in the group said she spent up to two hours in the car on her journey from her home, near the Swan River, to her horse’s stables in Byford. And then she spent the same amount of time in the car on the journey home. And she does that most days of the week.  The other 13 youngsters had similar stories to tell.  It really shone through just how busy, and dedicated, these talents were when Kate Bobridge and I had them fill out a timetable outlining their tasks for the upcoming week. All of their timetables were choc-a-block full of committments, including time spent at school, TAFE or university, at work, and with their horses. Little time was left to spend with family and/or friends. And I guess that's the whole point of the "Developing Champions" workshops and mentoring program. The life of a present-day amateur, yet elite, athlete is hectic. Our goal is to help young, aspiring, Western Australian athletes acquire all the life skills necessary for them to strive for success both on and off the sporting field.

Kate and I drilled into the dressage riders and eventers the importance of living a balanced lifestyle. 2008 Olympic Champion in the women's 470 class sailing event, Elise Rechichi, helped our cause. During a short video presentation, Elise explained the important role a balance lifestyle has played in her success. And now, apart from training towards a title defence in London 2012, Elise is learning to fly planes and she is also looking to study medicine! So, whoever is reading this ... it is all possible, if you plan carefully and set your mind to it!

My second question was also answered througout the morning. And while it has been a good couple of years since I was a proper elite athlete (I competed at the Beijing Olympics too, but wasn't as successful as Elise. My quad scull rowing crew finished in sixth place), the lessons and life skills I learnt during my athletic days continually help me in my current life as a personal trainer, a student, a friend, a daughter, a sister, an aunty and an occassional public speaker. I have learnt the essential skills of time management, hardwork, discipline, compassion, working alone or as part of a team, etc. In this way, sport is a microcosm of life. And I have no doubt that the equestrian riders Kate and I met on that Sunday in Brigadoon will get so much out of their chosen sport- probably more than they ever anticipated!!

Check out Amber's blog "Pull Together" - www.booradleyrows.blogspot.com 

Rowing, writing, personal training. These are my passions. Pull Together is my forum for combining my thoughts, my experiences and my knowledge from these three great disciplines.
(Amber Bradley)
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