There’s no such thing as a typical Aussie Spirit player. They come from all sorts of diverse backgrounds and locations.
Jocelyn Jeloudev is perhaps the best example of a player who faces challenges that very few elite athletes of any sport have to contend with.
Jeloudev (nee McCallum) was born in Mt Isa and now lives on Thursday Island, a community in the Torres Strait, 40 km off the coast of Cape York in Far North Queensland.
Her remote location brings challenges that would seem insurmountable to many athletes, but Jeloudev wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I love it here,” she says. “It’s a privilege to live here. It’s the Caribbean of Australia.”
Rather than worrying about the difficulties of living remotely, Jeloudev prefers to focus on the positives.
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“I feel really blessed to be here,” she says. “It’s inspiring. Everyone is into fitness, which makes it easy to train. There’s always something going on.”
The difficulties with training obviously didn’t deter the Aussie Spirit selectors when they sat down to choose the team for next month’s Softball World Championship in Surrey, British Columbia.
Head Coach Fabian Barlow paid tribute to Jeloudev for overcoming such obstacles to make the Spirit team. “Based up there on Thursday Island, Jocelyn has had a pretty unique preparation — pitching on the sand and with her husband having to gear up,” Barlow said.
He said Jeloudev’s performance against the Toyota Red Terriers in Sydney earlier this year was a key factor in her selection. “She came in when our pitchers were getting hit around a bit and threw about six innings without giving up a run. That’s when the selectors thought, ‘If you’re going to come up with a performance like that, then we need to take you to this World Championship’.”
For Jeloudev, 32, there was nothing new in the challenge of living so far away from the rest of the team. In 2014 she was teaching on Mornington Island, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and still managed to make the Aussie Spirit team for the World Championship.
A promotion in her teaching job soon followed, and she found herself teaching Years 7-8-9 kids on Thursday Island, where she has lived for the past 18 months.
“I don’t feel disadvantaged at all,” she says. “I’ve been in and out of the team over the past 10 years and a lot of that time I’ve been living a long way away, so I know how to prepare. Now that I’m a bit older I know what’s important and what I have to do to be ready.”
Making life easier is husband Adrian, her stand-in catcher and chief supporter. “He does the hard yards. I couldn’t do what I do without him,” she says.
If you think a trans-Pacific trip is gruelling, Jeloudev points out that it will take her longer to get to Brisbane than it will to fly from Australia to the USA. Again, it’s not something that bothers her. “The players are spread out all over Australia and across the world,” she says. We all keep in touch through Facebook or email, so I don’t feel isolated.
“I just feel blessed to be part of the team.”
Images courtesy Sam Donkin Photography