Travelodge Aussie Spirit juggling career and Olympic aspirations

Travelodge Aussie Spirit juggling career and Olympic aspirations

The Travelodge Aussie Spirit have been spending every available opportunity on a diamond preparing for the sport’s long-awaited return to the Olympic Games in July 2021.

However, like many athletes currently chasing Gold in their selected codes, a number of the squad are treading a tightrope between juggling their professional careers and athletic aspirations.

Of the current squad of 23, only three players earn a full-time income through softball, competing in the Japanese Professional League where the sport enjoys a much higher profile and financial backing through a number of Japanese corporations.

A small number of representatives include athletes with scholarships to U.S. Colleges where they compete in competitive NCAA softball tournament’s while working towards their academic achievements.

Others have made significant sacrifices in their professional careers to focus on study in Australia as well as working part time to fund their softball pursuits.

Those who have chosen to maintain both their professional and elite level athletic careers too have faced sacrifices, often in both areas, to achieve their goals.

“I’ve been judging a softball career as well as a working career for probably more than 10 years now,” said Chelsea Forkin, a veteran of over 170 games for the Travelodge Aussie Spirit and a full-time teacher at Redcliffe State High School.

“At the start of my early twenties I went to university so I was training full time and working part time in two jobs while attending university and it probably wasn’t until I graduated and actually started my teaching career that I was able to really I guess establish my career direction.

“I’ve been teaching now for just over five years and I’ve also still been training and travelling with the Australian softball team it’s been quite challenging at times but also I think what makes it easier is just being organised and being in control of my schedule, that really seems to help to put me in the right direction.”

While maintaining both parts of her professional and athletic life is challenging, Forkin says there’s an element of mixing business and pleasure that helps her keep everything on track on and off the diamond.

“I specifically teach Health and physical education and I’m also taking on a Sport Coordinator role at my school which is a new challenge for me.

“Doing sport administration as well as teaching is quite new for me but I’m enjoying it quite a lot, I’m super passionate about sport and students and their outcomes at school, so I think sport has always been a big driving force and a big motivator.”

The dual international has represented Australia in softball and baseball and says her schedule and planning has to go above and beyond to maintain both parts of her world.

“On a personal level, my absolutes to making sure that my career in teaching and my career as a softball player is just staying on top of my schedule and really trying to have high expectations of my organisational skills,” added Forkin.

“I think coming to the end of my sporting career and really starting to really flourish in my teaching career, I’ve learnt a lot of things along the way when it comes to scheduling and being organised and just making sure that each domain in my life is taken care of and I know that that gives me confidence going into a working week knowing that I’ve got everything done and taken care of at work and then I can go into my training environment and feel like I can also give my all in that there as well.”

Forkin’s teammate Michelle Cox, an Accountant at Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) with 92 Australian caps under her belt, takes similar lessons from her professional career into softball.

“I definitely think may professional career has helped my softball career in terms of time management, organisational skills and prioritizing different things in your life,” said Cox.

“I think in terms of the skills that you learn in both worlds interrelate I think they work both ways, especially in terms of things like teamwork, leadership, learning to deal with success and failure and handling pressure I think all of those things apply to both worlds and so the shift in focus can be quite seamless.”

Cox is one of many in the squad who has an employer fully supportive of her pursuits, she says it’s a two-way street where communication is critical in her workplace allowing her the opportunity to keep her training on track.

“I think the most important thing is to have a good relationship with your employer or your teacher or your boss, whoever it may be.

“I think it’s important to have consistent communication with them, it’s not only making them aware of your commitments but also to get together and develop a plan around them. I’ve been very fortune at PWC to have a really supportive employer and I think that’s been a result of good communication from both ends.”

It took some fine tuning for Cox to figure out what worked best for work/training balance, keeping her own wellbeing in mind was challenging so as to not burn the candle out from both ends.

Again, communication the key to figuring out the best scenario.

“It’s important to check in with yourself regularly, if you realise you’re not ok or you’re not coping with your current balance, just talk to someone reach out to your support network,” added Cox.

“Whether it be your friends, your family, your coach, whoever it may be, just to discuss your options and work out what suits you.

“It took me a good six months to work out that working full time on top of all softball commitments wasn’t right for me, so I dropped down to four days a week and that suits my life a whole lot better.”

At the other end of the scale and about to enter the workforce full time is Queenslander Tamieka Whitefield, currently studying a Bachelor of Education while keeping up with her Travelodge Aussie Spirit commitments.

She says her study outside of softball has helped keep her on an even keel with something to focus on outside of the sport and the intensity that can come with it.

“Having a university degree as well as competing as an athlete has definitely helped,” said Whitefield.

“It keeps a balance between just being an athlete and also gives me something else to focus on, and it’s also something I can do post sport, so whenever that is I finish playing softball I will have obviously a career.”

Like her teammates working full time, Whitefield says studying, working and training all comes down to effective time management and fitting in training with a packed schedule.

“It is definitely challenging having both, trying to be an athlete, work and study at the same time. I’m super fortunate that my workplace are really great with when I need to study or be away for softball but it’s just more about making the time, so you miss social events because you need to spend that time either training or studying.

“It’s really about having great time management and being super productive, I try and use my lunch breaks or just before training whatever time I have, to get in some study before training so just making sure that you keep a balance but also prioritising what you want.”

The Australian Institute of Sport is celebrating National Careers Week from 17-23 May, Athletes and staff from National Sporting Organisations, the National Institute Network and the Elite Athlete Education and TAFE Networks are invited to join the AIS National Careers Week webinars, featuring Verity Long-Droppert discussing Career Pathways on Wednesday 19 May at 12:00pm AEST.

Register for the Webinar’s here.

For more information, visit the Careers Week website.