What are some of your first NIAS memories?

My first memories of NIAS are of my selection to represent all athletes at the official launch of the Northern Inland Academy of Sport in Armidale, 1992. I was 15 years old and was trailing for NSW Softball selection at the time. There was significant media and lots of officials, it was exciting that our region was getting its own Academy for bush kids to have access to high level coaching and other sport related education. I loved playing sport; the competition, the friends, the physical activity and the mental challenges. Sport made me feel alive and I was in control of what and how I performed.

What level of commitment and discipline does it take to be an elite athlete?

I didn’t know it at the time, but the NIAS discipline, education and physical activity set me up for life. I chose to study and play sport in Canberra after leaving school and all those skills I learnt on and off the field with NIAS were coming in very handy. I represented the ACT at Nationals in Softball, this part of my life was my family away from home. After I finished University, introducing yourself to new teammates became introducing yourself to workmates. How to prepare for a game translated into how to prepare for a job interview or how to negotiate a pay rise. Rational and quick decision making on the field, became measured and timely decision making in the workplace.

How did NIAS play a part in your sporting journey?

My first official job was in sport development. I taught kids how to throw, catch and run (via softball) in schools, something I couldn’t have done without sport and NIAS. This led to a role with a company who was responsible for looking after the Brazilian and Croatian Olympic Team and the Netherlands Paralympic team in Canberra at the AIS in the lead up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

I was responsible for the accommodation, meals, transport, medical and training needs of almost 1000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes from the around the world. I took Olympic Committee chiefs on tours of Canberra to convince them, this was the place for your team before you move into the Sydney Olympic Village. It was a dream job. The skills I learnt in this role, led me to working with Prime Ministers and other leading business identities from around Australia and the world. None of this possible without my time spent in sport over the years and my decision to make the most of experiences such as NIAS.

After moving home to Tamworth with my husband so my children can be country kids, I met my current business partner through playing sport. Our mutual love for the bush and sport, the life lessons sport teaches you along with the health benefits is a major driver behind what we do in our business, Rural Fit – supporting people with their health through movement and exercise.

What advice would you give a young aspiring rural athlete?

I encourage all young athletes to make the most of your experiences with NIAS. Yes, NIAS may be a pathway for you to reach national or international level with your chosen sport, but it will most certainly provide you with a set of skills that you will no doubt use for the rest of your life.