Exiting Elite Sports: Emotions, Excitement and Trepidation.
Pyeongchang, Korea: As I lie here on the morning of ladies' half pipe finals, and with only 2 days left in an international career that has spanned close to 20 years, I have been flooded by waves of different emotions.
I have been blessed to coach some of the world's best riders, been a small part of their success that has seen Olympic winners, X Games winner, World Cup winners, World Champions and Dew Tour winners. It has simply, been a blast, but that road has now come to an end. To be able to retire with 2 of my favorite athletes, who like many of my athletes, have become family to me, is one hell of a way to go out.
I have known since January 2017 that now was the correct time to retire from coaching at the international level. My drive to succeed and my passion to be on the road for more than half the year are simply no longer there. The sacrifices I have made both personally and professionally no longer make sense any more. When you know, you know, right?
To represent my home nation of Australia at my last Olympics (I think but never say never!) is an absolute honor. Both my Olympic trips have been with Australia. Its freaking awesome! To go out with Holly Crawford and Nate Johnstone feels right. We are all retiring at the same time. Holly and Nate have had long and successful careers. Former World Champions, World Cup winners, Grand Prix winners, X Games athletes……they have done it all. Australian and world snowboarding owe them a TON of gratitude. As much as they are 2 of the world's best, they are even better people. Everything you look for in a person. So fortunate to have them in my life. I consider them family.
I guess emotions are expected as a 20-year career winds down. While stoked to be at the Olympics, and excited to be part of it, there is definitely some sadness associated with it. The people I have travelled the world with for so many years have become dear friends. People from all corners of the world. Why I love sport so much is it bridges culture, race, politics and all the other bull shit that we are bombarded with on a daily basis. We get to share the love of snowboarding. We get to pass that passion onto others, and we get to see the world's best hone their craft on a daily basis. So, thank you to all the coaches and riders that have put up with me for the past years. It's been an incredible honor to get to know you all, and I value the friendships more than any of you will ever know. Coaches…...keep fighting the good fight! Advocate for your athletes, advocate for our sport, and remember that although being a coach can at times be a thankless task, and a grind beyond words, you guys are having such a remarkable effect on your rider's lives, just as you have had such a remarkable effect on mine! There are stars and there are star makers…... choose your role and embrace it!
Clearly at a time like this, you are flooded with memories. The funny thing is that I remember the experiences more than I remember any of the results. I remember the journeys more than the destinations. I remember and celebrate the process more than the end point. Snowboarding has brought so many positives and has allowed me to view the world on a global scale. It makes me a happy old coach to remember all this. I feel contented and fulfilled. For that I am so grateful.
I am excited AND nervous for what the future will hold. It feels like being re-released back into society! I have so many new things I want to pursue, new projects that I want to sink my teeth into, new targets and goals I want to achieve. I will always be involved in snowboarding in some capacity. It's impossible to walk away from it in complete totality. I feel a desire to give back, to try and illicit some positive changes in some areas that have driven me crazy for years. You better put up if you can't shut up, so I plan on doing that! Plus…. I still really love to ride, even though the skill level has dropped a little over the years!
Retiring from something that has been such an integral part of your life for such a long time is scary. Please consider what athletes are going thru as they hang up their boots for the last time. For me at 48 years of age, I've already had a few life changes, but I would be lying to say I'm not slightly rattled. For athletes, this is all many of them have known for basically all their lives. Coaches, friends and love ones…. you will be one of the most important pieces to help them adjust to life after leaving elite level sports. I hope, in the future, I am able to help athletes with a positive exit strategy from elite sports. It is such a needed thing, that to be honest, action sports really lack. So many former superstars have vanished off the map, and have struggles in their daily lives. To have your identity tied to a sport is a two-edged sword, and we must make that sure that the individual is still celebrated, not just their results or accomplishments as an athlete.
This has been such a surreal and deeply enriching experience. The past 2 weeks have been filled with every gambit that elite level sports have to offer. I know I have not been my same talkative self. I've needed some time to reflect on what life will look like from now on. It's going to be great. So many possibilities and opportunities that I can't be scared to chase.
So, thank you to everyone that has supported me over the years. A special thank you to all my riders, and to all the coaches that have worked with me.
A HUGE thank you to my "family" (my kids Charlotte and Oliver,, Shamya, Siddhartha, Benny A, Mandy, JJ & BA) and friends (Clappo, Matty C, Richo, Newman, Burto, Mandy W, Benny Wise, Nathan Park, Brady McNeil, Jason Rutherford, Elijah Teter) that have supported this rough around the edges surfer who dared to dream. What a ride, what a trip. I am eternally grateful and eternally stoked.