What 3 Retired Aussie Sporting Legends Learnt From Pivoting Their Lives and Careers - Women's Health

What 3 Retired Aussie Sporting Legends Learnt From Pivoting Their Lives and Careers

The Reinvention Women.

For elite athletes, most of whom started training when they were in single digits, sport is who they are, not just what they do. Training and competing govern their diaries; goals and dreams relate to performance; and social circles are often rooted in the sporting world. So, with 33 the average age of retirement for athletes, how can the post-competition world possibly compete?

Former AFLW player Abbey Holmes is now a sports commentator, Australian Survivor star and founder of athleisure brand Blindside

Abbey Holmes, 30

The former AFLW player is now a sports commentator, Australian Survivor star and founder of athleisure brand Blindside.

“I would have loved to play for a little bit longer but I knew what I was capable of and, in those last few years in the AFLW, I wasn’t performing to the level of expectation that I had upon myself. Injuries did force my hand, so I feel like I was robbed of a couple of years [playing professionally]. But sport had been my entire life for so long and I’d always put it first, so when I retired, while I was sad, I was also excited as it led me to that next phase of life. At the time, I was forging a career in broadcasting and sports commentary, so I focused my energy on that, and I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to achieve. I played the game, loved the game, know the game, and now I’m able to share that with other people. I also launched Blindside with my partner early last year – I’ve always been interested in fashion, and love being active but also comfortable. Every day, I love waking up to new challenges and being able to create a community around the brand. Honestly, the world really is your oyster in terms of what you want to create. You’ve just got to be brave enough to go out there and make it.”  

Top Career-change Tip: “Don’t get stuck in a rut doing something you don’t enjoy. Instead go back to the drawing board to find your ‘passion point’; what truly makes you tick?”

Ex-Olympic gymnast and cafe owner Olivia Vivian is now Australia’s best female Ninja Warrior, having taken part in all five seasons of the TV show

Olivia Vivian, 32

This ex-Olympic gymnast and cafe owner is now Australia’s best female Ninja Warrior, having taken part in all five seasons of the TV show.

“I just fell in love with gymnastics. I started at age eight and was fortunate enough to reach my personal goal of the Olympics at 19 – the oldest gymnast in Australia. My nickname was ‘grandma’! [After retiring in 2016], my incredible mum understood I needed to shift my goals quickly and she encouraged me to run a local deli that was up for lease. I knew nothing about running a business, but it required my time and focus in a way I needed it to. I was at that cafe seven days a week and fell in love with customer service. Then, when Australian Ninja Warrior came along in 2017, it changed everything. I remember walking out on set and my jaw hit the ground. It was like a supersized playground. That first season, I made it to the last challenge, a 4.35m-high Warped Wall that I needed to scale, and even though I didn’t make it to the semi-finals, there was this fire in me again. I fell in love with the style of training and the ninja community (I also met my partner through training!). In 2018, I made it through to the Grand Final and that’s when I thought, ‘Why don’t I change my mindset and aim to be the first woman in the world to win this show?’ That’s still my goal. I love being able to inspire younger girls and show other women that we can do this.”

Top Career-change Tip: “Know that it’s OK to not be OK. After spending all your life chasing one dream, it’s normal if it takes you some time to figure out your next step.”

Annabelle Williams, OAM,  33

Annabelle Williams, OAM,  33

A decorated para-swimmer who has now retrained as a lawyer, Annabelle also runs a motivational speaking company to help inspire others.

“I knew it was great to be an athlete, but I don’t think it’s possible to truly appreciate how wonderful it is until you’re retired. It’s just this bubble moment that hardly anyone gets to experience. I grew up in a sporty household and my mum was a good runner (she won the national championships). I also started in athletics and was on track to qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics, but about a year out, I developed severe stress fractures in my shins and that led me to swimming. It was a blessing in disguise, really, as I don’t think I ever would have done as well in athletics. I competed at the 2008 Beijing Games and then retired after London 2012. I always knew that once I was ready to start my next career – I was studying law at the same time as swimming – I would need to move on from competing. Swimming had been something I’d done twice a day, every day, and so I was kind of excited to do something different. I didn’t have any immediate transition blues, but I did miss having that connection to people who understood the sporting world, so I ended up getting on the Australian Swimmers Association and I’ve continued being involved in sport that way. I think my mental health stayed intact because I had a very strong support network.”

Top Career-change Tip: “Stay connected with people from your previous career so you don’t feel like you’re alone. You can always reach out for their support. Also use your network to ask questions and figure out what opportunities are out there for you.”

By Lucy E. Cousins

Lucy is a writer for Women's Health with more than 15 years experience under her belt. She's obsessed with everything from flotation tanks, meditation and activewear as well as all of the latest fitness classes. But she's all about balance... so in between fitness sessions, you'll find her with a coffee in one hand and a croissant in the other

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