This year our 2020 International Women’s Day event celebrated game-changing sportswomen in partnership with rebel – a brand that really practices what it preaches. Its parent company (Super Retail Group) recently received an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality Citation from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, making it the first Australian retail business to be recognised for a citation in the agency’s history. A huge achievement and major win for equality.
Rebel’s proud support of women continues across major sporting codes with naming rights to the WBBL, AFLW, Netball, W-League and NRL Women’s Premiership. From grassroots to elite level, the leading sports retailer looks to inspire, support and raise the profile of female athletes.
We heard plenty of this kind of inspirational stuff in our panel chat with former captain of the Aussie Diamonds and rebel ambassador Laura Geitz, swimming superstar and Olympic gold medallist Leisel Jones, and Paralympic racer Madison de Rozario. Their wealth of knowledge not only helped the many sportswomen in the room, but will guide many of you outside of it. Their wisdom is applicable to so many aspects of life, whatever your chosen profession, so here are some of the best bits of advice they shared.
1. Choose dedication over motivation
Despite the hype around motivation, Leisel Jones explains you can’t rely on it to help you meet your goals.
“I think motivation is a huge myth because most of the time I wasn’t motivated, I was just really dedicated,” she says of her incredible swimming success.
This kind of dedication is bolstered by developing resilience and grit from a young age.
“When things get hard and things go wrong, which they inevitably will, it’s about finding that thing inside you to just keep going, to keep striving towards something, to keep working towards something,” she says.
Geitz agrees, adding all athletes know that it’s in the midst of adversity you discover the most about yourself. It’s going to be uncomfortable, it’s going to be tough, it’s going to be outside of your comfort zone, but you’re “learning a hell of a lot in the process,” she says.
“Just because things don’t work out the way you want them to work out, you don’t throw the towel in,” says Geitz. “You arrive at the destination where you ask yourself the question – how badly do I actually want this? Because you’re the only person who is going to be able to make that decision.”
2. Make your “weakness” your strength
Geitz says despite hating her height throughout high school, she came to appreciate how critical it had been in her incredible success as a netballer. One moment in particular crystallised it – when she played for the Queensland Firebirds, facing off against Jamaican-Australian goal shooter Carla Borrego.
“I went into the changeroom and did my hair on top of my head to try and give myself a couple of extra centimetres and Dad’s words came back to me – there’s going to be a day where you are so happy you are this tall and that was the moment, here I am trying to make myself taller than I actually already was,” says Geitz.
“What you actually think is your biggest weakness can turn out to be your biggest strength and it just takes a little while to arrive at that destination to understand what it is, but it’s special when you get there.”
3. Don’t let failures or success take up too much space
De Rozario explains the highs and lows only take up 5 per cent of our life, and what defines us is the other 95 per cent.
“I think success and failure need to take up the same amount of space in your life, but at the end of the day it’s not that much space,” she says. “We tell ourselves not to be defined by our failures but we don’t really apply that same statement to our success, so I think when we achieve those incredible things it’s always a shock when it lasts such a brief amount of time and it’s gone.”
She swears by goal setting for providing structure for the rest of our lives, where we exist so much more.
4. Trust your gut
Jones says her best career – and life – lesson is to do what feels right for you.
“Always go with your gut. Your gut always tells you what needs to happen, what the right thing is to do and what needs to happen next,” she says.
The swimmer recounts the moment she moved to Melbourne to follow her then fiancé in 2008, despite everyone telling her it was a huge mistake. She admits that although the relationship didn’t work out, following her intuition led to her winning an Olympic gold medal later that year.
“You know what’s right for you, trust that instinct and make your decision based on that,” she says.
5. Be brave enough to be authentic
“Being a strong woman is having the courage to be exactly who it is who you are, even if that doesn’t look like how you think it should,” says de Rozario.
Geitz shares similar advice.
“My biggest learning through my journey was to be brave and to just be authentic to you,” she says. “I think when you try to be something that you’re not you get found out very, very quickly.”
6. Support other women
More often than not the stereotype of catty, competitive women is proven unfounded, but it’s always important to support and encourage other women wherever we can.
“The biggest thing we can do for women is support each other and do it genuinely,” says Jones. “Be the woman who fixes another woman’s crown without telling her it was crooked… Be each other’s cheerleaders.”
De Rozario says that support from women in her life has got her where she is today and it’s only fair to pass on the favour.
“I think that’s something that we can do for so many people around us, whether it’s the people beside us or the people coming up behind us,” she says. “It’s not about forging a pathway to follow, but it’s about allowing everyone to create their own and helping them to be whatever it is that they need to be to be the best version of themselves.”
And, at the end of the day, Geitz says, treating people with kindness and respect will get you far.