Photo courtesy of Sally Tsoutas
I remember the day I got the call after the ATAR results were released. I was so excited. It’s such a humbling feeling seeing all your hard work pay off. I worked hard during year 12 and received an ATAR of 97.8 and was offered a scholarship to study at Western Sydney University, so I took the opportunity. My decision to go to Uni and take on a Bachelor of Business & Commerce while playing professional netball was mainly made by me but my family have always had a large impact on my life decisions. I knew I didn't want to be just Paige the netballer. I wanted to succeed in other areas of my life… and study was the first goal.
The balance between netball and study was a challenging one but one I absolutely loved. I felt like I thrived off the challenge of succeeding at both. It kept me on my toes, kept me motivated, well-rounded and made me think about the time I needed to set aside for different tasks. Thankfully, WSU provided me with so many opportunities in terms of flexibility, study help, part time study, extensions and the location. The location was particularly important as I needed it to be close to both training and home.
During my studies I encountered a horrific injury on the netball court; I ruptured my left ACL. I decided to study full time and put my focus on university and not solely on netball while I was injured. I found it really difficult to handle; missing the games, road trips with the team, striving for my pro athlete goals and just the ability to function like I normally would have. What it did provide was space, time to reflect and it gave me something else to focus on. Studying while watching your team mates run around all season and at the 2014 Commonwealth Games was a tough pill to swallow.
I was blessed to have some pretty amazing people help me through my balance of study and sport. My family, the ACE consultants at NSWIS, AIS in Canberra when I lived there and while at the university. During my time living away from home I learnt to be organised and how to keep motivated while studying online when I was on the road.
I found Netball NSW and Netball AUS kept a nice distance when I was making choices regarding study. By no means were they not there for help I just always felt they were super proud that I was pursuing life and a career outside of pure sport. It was me who had to decide on whether study was impacting my play or vice-versa.
Since graduating, I’ve reflected on my time and wondered if I’d change anything. I think if I did it all over again I’d try to just enjoy every moment while surrounding myself with people who will motivate me, drive me to succeed both on and off the court. Those that understand physical and mental toughness and understand the ups and downs. Overall though I wouldn't change a thing. The ups and downs have made me both the player and person I am today. I thrive on the challenge of proving to myself I am good enough to be the best at whatever I put my mind to.
I don’t know how you’d get through Uni without a support network. For me my family, friends and team mates were amazing. They couldn’t have been more supportive. They let me do my own thing and make my own decisions and would back me up with whatever the choice. They were there for me during the stressful times but always gave me time and space to chase my goals.
It’s a surreal feeling to be able to have finished my degree at the age of 23 and compete at the highest level in my sport. I couldn’t be prouder of myself. The day I graduated was amazing. Every day of those five and a half years; all worth it. To have something more than sport; to have wisdom, a degree, new opportunities and a life and career path outside of the game of netball. At the moment I am currently doing some work for both WSU, as a research assistant for some projects, and the Western Sydney Wanderers as part of their membership team trying to learn more about behind the scenes of their organisation. I try and schedule these around netball. There are lots of skills and lessons that can be transferred between sport and study. During my time I tried to include discipline, organisation and the ability to work individually or in teams with various barriers. Yes, Maths taught me that there is right and wrong in life, but life isn’t always like Maths. It’s not always black and white; there is deeper analysis to it. Sport can be very subjective so you can’t get too caught up in the things you can’t control. I believe the mental pressure and capacity you have to have to perform on the world stage helped me to embrace the challenges and obstacles Uni and study threw at me. The leadership subjects helped me to consolidate my view that there are so many different leaders, and everyone is a leader in their own right. They taught me to be brave and to have trust in your own values.
I am not entirely sure where I will take the degree at this stage. I can see maybe one day I’d like to be in a high performance role in sport and seeing the complete opposite side to it. Right now, it’s netball and odd jobs here and there which I love but sport careers are short so I am embracing all that this chapter has to offer me.
NSW Swifts Netballer | AUS Diamond #161 💎Chasing DREAMS & ADVENTURES 👣