By Fiona Themann

It’s important that we all work to empower girls to use their strengths, their skills, their talents to reach their full potential. To encourage them to pursue their goals, follow their dreams and live happy, fulfilled lives. It’s also important that we prepare them for the challenges, and train them to look for alternative routes to success if one pathway gets blocked.

I have only recently started working with Sport and Life Training (SALT) as a facilitator and I am so excited by the opportunities I can see to help young women define their values.

As an international netball player from the country town of Mooroopna, I have faced a lot of challenges and navigated a lot of turns in my career. Roadblocks that I never imagined when I first walked on to a court all those years ago. I loved netball from the word go. I loved the friendships, the camaraderie – and I was good at it. I earned a spot on a Victorian team when I was 15 and in 2006 I represented Australia in the national schoolgirls team. Next year when I was 17, I was selected for the Melbourne Phoenix squad. I thought I was on my way and that I would just progress up the ladder – but, as I and many high calibre Australian players have found, success isn’t linear and when I wasn’t selected for the 2009 Under 21 Victorian team, I started to question my commitment.  It was the final year I was eligible for the team and I’d been selected every year previously.  I was relying on it.  I was devastated when I didn’t get chosen.

At that stage I realised it was up to me to decide which direction to take.    I decided that I would keep on playing, even if I couldn’t play for my beloved Victoria.  I loved the sport; I was committed to continuing to achieve and was prepared to do what it took to keep on progressing.  I got inventive. I approached the ACT team and was taken on as an import in the under21 National team. I then played with the Canberra Darters in the ANL for a year in 2011 and then moved to the Northern Territory Storm for the ANL season in 2012 and then I was selected in the Victorian Fury from 2013. I was back home.

Sadly, my wonderful Father, who had always been my greatest supporter died. He was a proud Scot and so when I was searching for something significant to do to honour him, I wanted something that aligned with my passion and my values and came up with the idea of playing netball for the national team in Scotland.  I really wanted to connect with his culture and the family that lived there so I approached the Scottish Thistles and was accepted to play.

Playing at an international level in the World Cup and playing for the country that was my Dad’s homeland in two Commonwealth Games was a really emotional experience.  I’d come a long way from the 20-year-old who missed out on the Victorian team.  I’d taken backroad and reached a destination that was even greater than I had envisioned.

I came back to Australia and played for the Adelaide Thunderbirds for two years.  This threw up further challenges when I married, and my partner needed to work in Melbourne while I lived and worked in Adelaide. But we made it work.

Netball has given me enormous rewards.  Playing a game I loved, travel and a chance to develop leadership skills.  As Captain of multiple teams, I have learned what it means to lead, how important it is to mentor young women, to not only ensure they have optimum skills for the court, but also that they are developing as confident, competent young women who will make their mark in the world.

I have a Bachelor of Education and as a teacher, I am bringing those skills to my new role as a facilitator at SALT. Having the opportunity to bring out the best in someone is the most rewarding thing you can do.

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