To me there seems to be a stigma attached for women in general life, but also in the world of sport that 30 and beyond is old. I obviously hold a contrary opinion.
In everyday circles people are rather too preoccupied for my liking as to whether I own a home yet, have plans to get married soon, or whether I am planning to have a child immediately (because my biological clock is ticking!) and if not, have I started considering the process of getting my eggs frozen?
These same external (and sometimes internal) ‘pressures’ and stereotypes also extend into the sporting environment in my experience. The oldest member of my team (thankfully not me) refers to herself, or is referred to, as the grandma of the team or the ‘old gal’. If I have a session modified to reduce loading it is because I am a ‘mature athlete’ or ‘seasoned campaigner’, and when I frequently take myself off to go through an extended warm-up it is because I am now a member of the 30 club.
In 2016 I was playing for England in the Quad Series in Australia, which just so happened to coincide with the contracting period for the then new Suncorp Super Netball competition. I watched the England vs. Australia game back last season for some specific analysis, a game which coincidentally led to me being made a contract offer by West Coast Fever, and I had to laugh at a few things. One thing that I noticed instantly was that I thought my performance was pretty average (thank the lord that Fever saw something different). Although my intent and passion was never in doubt, I lacked structure and a game plan. The second thing that made me laugh out loud was hearing the remarks from the commentary team.
I can honestly say that I NEVER watch the TV footage of a match back when I am analysing a game as the view that we get from our analysis footage is much better and I’m not too interested in what the commentary may have to say. In the Fever database they had coded the internationals from the TV footage and so I was able to hear a few things. The commentary team were discussing the upcoming period of contracting for the then new Suncorp Super Netball competition and said that I was a viable option for one of the teams. One commentator shared their opinion on whether I would be able to be competitive and successful in the league or not, and the other concluded the discussion on the topic by saying something like that I was getting on and if I wanted to play netball in the best league in the world that I needed to get a wriggle on before I was past my best. I was 28 at the time. I wasn’t at all offended by this opinion, it really made me laugh, however, I do think that society has it all wrong when it comes to wanting to put women out to pasture or pre-determine what they are and aren’t capable of when they reach 30 and beyond.
I honestly feel that as time goes by I am becoming a better athlete. My strength continues to improve, I am getting faster, more agile and my netball knowledge continues to grow. I still have many (add a few more manys if you’re my coaches) things that I can improve on which is exciting and motivates me and I love to learn and engage with my coaches who help me to expedite that process! I have evolved as an athlete over the years and engaged in a variety of training and lifestyle changes to try and facilitate my bodies maximal potential which means that now, my knowledge about my own capabilities and limitations is the best that it has ever been. I thrive on being able to work with the medical, physical and coaching team to get the best out of myself for individual gains but more so for the benefit of my team.
Here’s hoping that marriage, children and a place I can call home is on the horizon for me (if I choose it) but right now I am most excited about my capacity for growth and the pretty phenomenal opportunity that I have as a professional athlete to exploit that. Although I have always been old at heart, my mum would say that I was a late developer, but trust me when I say that the best is yet to come!