Photo courtesy of Stefan Wellsmore
Dear Olympic Beach Volleyballers,
The Olympics is one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking journeys you may go on. To go to an Olympics with the chance of winning a Gold medal for your country is one of the best feelings you can have.
For the majority of competitors it’s going to be an Olympic debut on the sand. Continue to remind yourself of how far you have come; all the preparation, all the hard work you have put in, all the ups and downs that have led you to this point. Try and enjoy the day before your event but understand it’s a mental hit out. I learnt to follow the plan that I set out through the day. It’s hard to keep the excitement levels down but stick to your usual routine and remind yourself that you don’t need to do anything extra. Try and harness all that excitement and turn it in to positive energy.
On the day soak it all in. The moment you walk on the sand. The moment you begin to warm up. The moment you are introduced to the crowd and you feel the energy coming from the Brazilian screams and shouts. The moment you may catch a glimpse of your family in the stands. It is however important to focus on each other; it’s going to be incredibly loud. We learnt to try and build a cocoon around each other. You need to take your routine to the next level. Try and place an emphasis on connecting with your teammate; it can become quite lonely out there. You girls are there for each other on the battlefield. You have done everything you possibly can in the lead up to this moment. One of the keys to your success will be staying composed under pressure during the match.
It’s really important to take care of your body and mind in between matches. One thing I really enjoyed doing in between my matches was staying in touch with what was happening with the other sports whether I knew the athlete or not. I loved reading about how someone came through and won gold. Really try to soak in the inspiration from the athletes around you.
The remainder of the time you have left until the curtain falls in Rio is spent celebrating, enjoying and being part of other athletes’ successes. I went to every event that I could. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see more of my new Olympic friends win Gold and break World Records. Try and explore a little bit of the culture of the city that you’re in before celebrating with 10,000 other athletes at the Closing Ceremony.
Soak up the experience of the closing ceremony. I remember in Athens, knowing it was going to be my last Olympics, running around taking selfies with as many athletes as I could. Don’t feel afraid to ask other athletes about their journeys. There are so many people who are like you. You never really know when or if you are going to be coming back so just take in every single exciting and inspirational moment. Don’t be scared to get lost amongst the many athletes. Take some extra clothes if you want to swap outfits! It’s a wonderful experience.
You are now a part of history; win, lose or draw. You’re a role model for others, a teacher and if you decide to keep going, you may look back and see your former self as a student.
But, one thing will never change; you’re an Olympian and no one will ever take that away from you.
Yours in sport,
Kerri Pottharst is without question, one of Australia’s most popular female sporting personalities and is renowned for being one of the fiercest competitors in the world of Volleyball. She is Australia’s most decorated Indoor and Beach Volleyball player, having represented her country for an incredible 22 years and remains the only Australian woman to have played professionally in the world’s most prestigious A1 Italian Indoor Volleyball league. In 1992 a serious knee injury should have ended her career, but in her typical no-nonsense style she recovered late in 1993, changed her goals to Beach Volleyball and then went on to compete in 3 Olympics and win two Olympic medals. One of those was Bronze at the Atlanta Olympics and then the Gold that everybody remembers so well, at Bondi Beach during the Sydney 2000 Games. In addition to her incredible sporting achievements, she is a wife, a mum, a speaker, a coach, an author and an entrepreneur. Kerri’s vision is to continue to inspire and motivate through her warm and personal keynote presentations and her fun, team-building corporate days on the beach.
Follow Kerri Pottharst on twitter @kerripottharst