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Nat Medhurst has been a regular member of the Diamonds since 2007, she is a three-time world champion who has competed and won medals in two Commonwealth Games with her sights set on a third next year.
However, two weeks ago the veteran shooter and West Coast Fever Captain received news which would alter her journey as a professional netballer.
Nat shares her story…
Goal setting, especially amongst athletes, is always spoken about and something that everyone is encouraged to do whether it is in relation to business goals, life goals, health goals or ﬁnancial goals just to name a few. Punch the words into google and the number of articles that jump on to your screen on how to set goals and how to achieve them is somewhat intimidating.
I’m sure at one stage or another, most of us have come across how to create SMART goals – where the goals that we set should be Speciﬁc, Measurable, Attainable/Attractive, Realistic and have a Time Frame attached to them. You go through these steps, write them down on a piece of paper and set about trying to achieve them.
As an athlete, we communicate these goals with coaches and have a support system around us to help achieve them, but what happens when those goals are no longer attainable? when something happens that you aren’t prepared for? There’s no article, blog or guide book on how to deal with those unexpected ‘events’ that we face as athletes especially when a goal as big as competing at a Commonwealth Games on home soil, becomes unattainable.
Being an athlete, things can change very quickly. Injuries happen, form drops, new coaches and administrators come in with a different vision and direction for the team, you fall out of favour or your own ambitions and love for the sport may change.
There’s more than one reason that impacts how long and how far an athlete stays in their chosen sport.
Playing for Australia has always been something I have been extremely proud of and never took for granted, I celebrated every selection, even if it was just going out for a nice feed and I respected the history of our great game.
For us netballers, the Commonwealth Games is one of two pinnacle tournaments that we get to compete in. We don’t get the honour of being an Olympic sport, so the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup are two sporting events that every netballer wants to be a part of. It is what we work hard for and set our sights on to be a part of every four-years.
Just a few weeks ago my goal of competing at my third Commonwealth Games was deeply crushed, trampled on and no longer something I could continue to work towards over the next 8-9 months.
It was a phone call from the Head Coach on a Sunday morning that left me in shock. After 10 years as a member of the Australian Netball Diamonds, I had been dropped from the squad altogether, with no opportunity to show (as I have done for years gone by), what I was capable of in that environment; no chance of pulling on the green and gold dress, which I respect and treasure so much; no chance of representing Australia at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Just like that, it was gone.
Life as an athlete can be brutal, probably more times than not, extremely challenging, rewarding yet heartbreaking and is a bubble that only those who compete in it, truly understand.
A competitive nature is somewhat bred into us (don’t even bother trying to play a “fun” game with an athlete), where we continue to want to be better and chase that best performance. It is where nothing is ever quite good enough or where we believe we can always do more. It is that constant hunger for improvement that makes the best athletes the ‘best’, but can just as quickly be damaging because we are never satisﬁed. That’s what makes it so crushing when we don’t achieve our goals.
When I got that phone call I struggled to speak to anyone, let alone my family as I felt I had let people down. The ﬁrst 24 hours were just texts, no phone calls. I couldn’t bring myself to speak to them and knew I was in that stage where anything they said, no matter what their good intentions were, was either going to turn me into a blubbering mess or make me very angry.
Believe it or not, athletes just like everyone else have emotions – we get sad, angry, frustrated, hurt, happy, ecstatic and every other emotion in between yet the way in which we respond to different events is closely monitored and usually highly criticised.
When it comes to close family and friends who have been a part of your sporting career, they are genuinely unsure what to do. At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong thing to say to someone in that time and sometimes just saying that you love them is the best rather than thinking you need to say more and start placing blame, asking questions or putting your own two cents in on the matter, because the reality is that it doesn’t change anything… as much as we wish it would!
It took about two days for me to start dealing with the reality of what had been said and what that meant for my 2018 goals.
Out of a few things, one thing I’ve always prided myself on has been my professionalism in all circumstances. Those who know me, certainly know I have an opinion and am raw with my emotions whether on a team or personal level – but I believe that we can always have an opinion and get it across in the right manner, rather than be walking clichés which constantly are around the sporting arena. As disappointed and somewhat blindsided as I was around the call, abusing personnel directly or indirectly (beware of social media!!) was never going to change anything or serve any purpose. It would only disrespect those girls whom are not only my teammates but great friends.
Privately there have been discussions around certain things, absolutely, but taking a breath and a step back to gain a little perspective is very powerful. If 2016 was to be the last time I was to have worn the green and gold, then I’ve been pretty fortunate to have played 87 Tests, won three World Championships as well as a Commonwealth Games gold and silver medal. I’m healthy and happy and so is my family and those I care about. There’s more than a fair share of people who are doing it tough and being dropped from a team doesn’t even feature on the comparison charts.
Instead I have chosen to tweak my goals to focus on enjoying my domestic netball and aim for a premiership in 2018; to start focusing more on life after netball. Most of all I will use this ‘event’ to try and prove people wrong which is something I’ve always loved to do. 2019 throws up the Netball World Cup in Liverpool and that now becomes a big dangling carrot.
When my 2017/18 season with West Coast Fever starts I will once again sit down with my Head Coach and go through my goals and things I want to achieve both on and off the court. Yes, there will be one big item crossed, but the belief that I still have more to give and things to achieve, even as a 33-year old, will continue to push me… to push me to be better.
There’s no doubt watching the Commonwealth Games will be tough, but I can’t wait to support all our Aussie athletes compete for those two weeks in April.
Although a big chunk of my long-term goals has disappeared, the ﬁner details of the person and player I am, the work ethic and standards I set and the desire to be a part of something great, is still intact and is something that will always remain.