You have to be selfish

Yesterday I competed in the Grappling Industries Submission Only tournament. I fought 10 times in one day, the most I have ever fought in one day. It was a difficult experience to say the least. This year has been full of new experiences and I am still learning how best to manage my career.

The first and most important thing is to manage my relationship with my long-time girlfriend Steph. Because of my hectic training schedule I don’t often get to see her. She is a crucial part of my support network. It has been trying at times to have a long distance relationship with someone who lives 25 minutes away. However, it is her understanding of my situation and dreams that makes her so endearing. I often compare it to how movie stars only date other movie stars. They are the only ones who understand. Steph doesn’t compete or train in any martial arts but she understands the lengths I have to go to so I can achieve what I want. She knows that to achieve these things I have to be selfish.

No one bears the brunt of an elite athlete’s lifestyle as much as their partners.

The last 6 weeks have been especially trying. I am back with Warren Hansen, a 2000 Olympian and 2004 Olympic Coach. Warren was one of my coaches at Halls and coached me in my first National Championships in 2009. I hope to rectify that 2009 Silver with a Gold Medal under him later this year. However, in transferring to Warrens club Professional Taekwondo I left my Coach Allan.

Allan’s club, Martial Fitness Australia was where I had my first MMA fight, my first Kickboxing fight; he organised and prepared me for my first International Medal in 2014 and my first National Medal as a Black Belt. I won my 13th Victorian Championship there and competed in my first G2 event under him.

This is the truth, I didn’t want to leave. I believe that Allan has the capability to be an Olympic Coach and was an excellent MMA coach for me. Before I joined his club, for a long time he had coached me at interstate events and coached me the first time I ever wore an Australian Team Uniform. His club is like a family. His wife Kelly organised trips, my Global Athlete License and my entries’ to different events. They both organised and negotiated opponents for me and made sure I was keeping my weight down for those events. Allan gave me extra private sessions at no extra cost and on numerous occasions invited me into his own home. One would ask why I would leave such an environment.

There is no easy answer, although from an athletic standpoint the place was great. Allan and I butted heads sometimes about my dedication, my willingness to attend even more sessions, and my ideas about the traditional Taekwondo Syllabus. There was no explosive argument, no final fight or public airing out of our issues. Our relationship deteriorated in private. I fought it for as long as I could, but I wasn’t enjoying training anymore.

At the other clubs I train at the vibe is much more relaxed. I am supervised and coached from a distance. Carlo would write programs for me then tell me what I had to work on and then in a few weeks would assess me again and change the program accordingly. Allan’s approach as a coach is very good for people who need as much supervision as he gives. I didn’t know I wouldn’t like it until I was already there. I felt overwhelmed and anxious about training, feeling as if every session was a performance rather than practice. It led to sliding results and a mixed feeling about where I was headed.

Our relationship has deteriorated even further now. I really wish it hadn’t. There have been rumblings that I only went there to write down his program, to steal from him. Those rumours hurt me the most. I would never do anything to jeopardise the advantage the juniors, Cadets and Children that train there have. They train like pro athletes and deserve the results and rewards they get.

I sometimes think that I as an athlete have the problem. That I am not coachable; that the reason I have now been a member of 4 clubs in 7 years is that I really don’t like taekwondo; that I like the idea of being a fighter, but don’t like fighting; that I don’t care about what my actions do to others. I have been doing this for a while now and when these doubts enter my mind I stop myself and say, just like Allan told me in our first meeting, ‘Sometimes as an athlete, you have to be selfish’.

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