Last week, the Australian Women National Water Polo Team was on a well deserved break, after their 1st round of intense preparations at Canberra’s AIS. It is perhaps the toughest part of preparation both physically and mentally. The Olympics as close as it might seem, is still 10 months away, which for the these elite Australian athletes, translates to another 10 months of intense focus on every aspect of water polo both technical and tactical. As the time gets closer to the Olympic team announcement date and August, the pressure and the tensions rise.
Like that was not enough of a challenge as it is, the ladies will be spending most of their time for the remainder of this year in Canberra. Australian Institute of Sport is truly a remarkable facility, but spending your life there, as summer approaches and as Australian beaches light up, is an entirely different mental battle of its own.
For this occasion, we managed to catch up with the Olympian and one of the leading players of the Stingers, who is all too familiar when it comes to knowing what it takes to go to Olympics, Keesja Gofers.
You have finally reached a well deserved 2 weeks break but for the past few weeks you were at the AIS training from Monday to Saturday morning. Could you please tell us what does a day in AIS consist of?
“A typical day at the AIS starts with eating breaky and heading to the pool and/or the gym. By the time the morning training is done, plus recovery (like ice baths, recovery pants and stretching) and coffee, is lunchtime.
This is roughly the same everyday. Some might call it monotony, I like to think of it as consistency!At Lunchtime, however, you don’t know what you’re going to get- what’s on the menu? will there be hundreds of school kids lining up for the toaster? Will there be other athletes from different sports in the food hall today?After lunch, we have down time. If you need physio, medical or any other health professional this is the time to see them. If we have team meetings or workshops (such as performance/financial/branding etc) they are scheduled for this time. If you need a nap or need to get out of the AIS, this is the time to do that too! Or if you are like me, it’s the perfect time to look up weddings on Pinterest :)We are back at the pool at 4.30pm for training. After that it’s straight to dinner time so we get home in time for pod to watch the Bachelorette or Masked Singer (who is the lion???)Then off to bed, ready to do it all again the next day!“
It must be challenging both mentally and physically. Do you have any set routine that you go through, every day, that sort of helps you get through the day?
“In my experience, it is the hardest and most challenging when you are not living in the moment. If you worrying about the future (e.g. the swim set tomorrow is going to hard) or stressing about the past (e.g I messed up so much last training session).To stay in the moment as much as I can, I practice mediation each morning. If I find my thoughts going into the past or future, I focus on my breathing to bring me back to the moment I also love making lists. To do lists, shopping lists, list of goals, lists, lists, lists. It keeps me productive and organized. At times it can get really hard. You guys are away from home, training extremely hard, pushing the limits.“
How important is it to have a good atmosphere in the team. What does the team do when you notice that you are all feeling a little bit flat. Is there some one in the team who is always full of energy ?
“It’s very important to have a good atmosphere in the team. We want to push ourselves and perform our best but we also need to foster an environment where we can try things that might not be our best skills to improve on them too. We can all look forward and say, we want to be at our best every minute of each training session no matter what. But reality is, some days you are flat or fatigued or distracted. Whatever it is, it takes you out of the training.But in a team sport, we are never all feeling this way at once and the positive energy of others can lift you up. When you feel like you cant keep going for yourself, you can look around and do it for your teammates. That’s why being in a team sport is the best!!“
With all this hard training, food is so important, again both mentally and physically would you agree? It is known that at the AIS, after the first week you really need to start getting creative with your food. Do you have any secret dishes that you like to pile up? This could be a great tip for the generation to come (laugh):
“The AIS does very well in feeding so many people everyday! But as you can imagine, sometimes you just don’t want what is on the menu. My hot tips would be: 1, choose one hot dish for your meal (not all 5 options) that way when you get to week two you don’t feel like you’ve have everything on there is, 2, Be creative. Falafel on a sandwich? Curry on a wrap? Piklets with Custard? I say why not give it a go!“
You have finally reached a well deserved break. How have you been recharging your batteries? Is there anything that you particularly missed from home?
“It’s great to come home for a bit between the training camp in Canberra. Nothing recharges the batteries like seeing my fiancée, my puppy, Magic, my family and friends. I’m in the USA right now for a friend’s wedding which has been awesome so far.“
Thanks to Keesja for catching up with us and best of luck to her moving forward towards the Olympics!