VIDEO: PlayersVoice stories
Team Girls is dedicated to fostering and promoting girls’ participation in sport. It’s about girls supporting girls, building up their confidence, and knowing they’re stronger when they stand together – on and off the court.
We’ve teamed up with PlayersVoice to bring you five inspiring stories from Aussie athletes that have played at the highest level. Check out the stories of Liz Ellis. Laura Geitz, Ash Brazill, Alicia Quirk and Morgan Mitchell below.
Figuring out who you are
For Ash Brazil growing up playing netball was a safe space to figure out who she was. By being in an environment where people were so accepting of her helped her confidence. She says that meeting people from sport showed her you are who you are and you can do whatever you want. She believes that, without sport, she wouldn’t have the relationship with her family she has but also she wouldn’t have the life experience she has had.
For me. Growing up netball was a really big part of figuring out who I was and I struggled really early on with my sexuality.
I felt like the only time I could be who I was on the netball court because at that moment I was only getting judged for my ability to play netball rather than who I was off court.
Sport became my safe spot even though no one knew. I guess I was battling my own little demons and for that 60 minutes of playing a game or training, I could be who I was for that whole time and it just felt like the weight of the world was off my shoulders.
Sport was a way for me to balance my mental wellbeing. I think I'm very lucky when it comes to netball and AFLW because I've always been in an environment where people really accept who you are.
The three items I brought in today are three items that really gave me confidence to be who I am away from the court or the field. And I've always struggled with being Ash Brazill the net baller or Ash Brazill the footballer because I'm just Ash Brazill and it's me being a human, not the athlete. And the athlete's just a little bit of me.
These are my AIS trackies that I got 11 years ago now. They're very worn and discoloured a little bit. I reckon I wore them nearly every single day when they weren't in the wash. I actually didn't really know what the AIS was back then.
I've always just played netball because I love it. I didn't even know that netball could be a career.
When I was at the AIS and that was when I told my family first that I was gay and this is how I've been feeling. I didn't just decide overnight. I think it was two years where I was trying to convince myself that I wasn't gay and I wasn't that person and I didn't know anyone else who was gay. There was not one person at the AIS who I knew so I got to start really from scratch, take all the layers off and really build up who I was. And I really think meeting people from different sports helped me understand that you don't have to be a certain way just because you're a net baller. You are who you are and you can do whatever you want.
It's meeting all these people from the AIS gave me that confidence and built me up to feel strong enough that I could actually tell my family and just be proud of who I am.
This photo was on my wedding day. This means a lot to me because it has the four most important people in my life. In one photo you can just look up my brother and my mom, my dad, they just seem as happy as Brooke and I are there.
I think about my netball journey and how my parents and my brother have played a really big part in it and if it wasn't for them I wouldn't be able to be the athlete I am today. One story that clicks in my mind is, I was playing for the [Hunter Jaguars 00:00:02:49] , which was four hours away from my home. My mom would have to leave work early to pick me up from school and drive me four hours up the highway for a two training session and then four hours, back twice a week.
She was pretty incredible. It was where I got to share a lot of my time with my mum and be open and honest and have a laugh, sing songs and just really share that mother-daughter time. I became really close with my mom in those car trips and she became and still is and always has been my best friend.
My brother's name is Jake and he is 18 months younger than me. He's been a best friend growing up. We weren't the kids that sat there and played on PlayStations. We were out on the farm kicking a footie, throwing a netball. I'm so grateful to have him as a brother because I feel like he had to sacrifice a lot of his life. Leaving certain things early to get to my state trainings or state games and he missed out on a lot of birthday parties, social hangouts because he'd be watching me play state netball. I feel bad cause I probably haven't thanked him enough for everything he's done. He's just been a big part of my journey and he's really helped me and challenged me to get better.
This suitcase to me reminds me of my netball journey all the way back from when I used to play Saturday netball for Bargo.
I've always had a rule and I think that rule started because I was only allowed one bag on my first flight, but I would only take whatever I could fit in this suitcase and that's kind of just stuck with me. And the reason why it means so much to me is because it's been a thing about starting a new adventure, stepping outside of my comfort zone, going for a new ride and not knowing what is behind that door. Now I've been able to completely step out of my comfort zone in playing for Collingwood and see if I was able to play two sports at the same time.
Growing up as a young kid, I was always told by coaches that I have to choose either netball or footie, and I really struggled with that.
To now be at an elite level, playing for one club at both netball and AFLW it's so cool that I can now turn back to these coaches and say, "You can actually do both."
We're in a world now where young girls, young boys can do any sport that they want and not just have to choose one, but be able to do two, three, four different sports.
Without sport, I wouldn't know where I'd be today. I probably wouldn't have the relationship I have with my family. I'd probably still be battling my demons and not knowing who I am and I definitely wouldn't have the life experience I have today.
Learning from new sports
From a young age Morgan’s mum encouraged her and her two sisters to play sport. At the age of 7, she told her mum she wanted to be an Olympian so her mum and aunt bought her a gold bracelet with a running shoe charm. She still has the bracelet. As a child Morgan was shy and says playing sport helped her to become more confident. It’s this confidence, she believes, that causes good thoughts which translate into good actions. It also meant she met new friends, friends which she still has to this day.
I started playing sport when I was about five or six years old in athletics, gymnastics and basketball with my two sisters. My mom was a single mom raising us three girls. It was very different having no man in the house, but that's all we knew. My mom's philosophy for getting us three into sport was she wanted us to experience all different aspects of life and she just wanted us to find a passion, stick with it and see what we can actually do with our ability.
I dipped my toe into every little aspect of sport and just tried everything because you learn what you love and what you don't like and you can play around with it and mix and match and to me it gave me a lot of confidence growing up.
I decided to keep those little mementos because it's a nice reminder of how far I've come and that your dreams actually can turn into reality.
I received this bracelet when I was about six or seven. I remember writing in my little journal that I wanted to go to the Olympics. I told my mom like, mom, I really want to run in the Olympics. So, her and my auntie actually went out and bought me a gold bracelet with a little charm on it and the charm is a running shoe.
Cathy Freeman was a star of the Sydney Olympics. Cathy was not the reason I wanted to be a 400 meter runner. A lot of people think that, but I was actually an 800 meter runner and cross country runner when I was younger. I've kept the bracelet because it was the first piece of jewelry I had ever received. I remember thinking, well, my mom believes in me, my auntie believes in me. It was just nice that my family had that belief in me.
My mom, she put in a lot of effort. Obviously, being a single mom it was quite tough, but no matter what she provided as much as she could to us three girls. She just wanted to make sure that we were taken care of. She wanted me to live out my dream. She just wanted me to be happy, which is more special to me because I've learnt along the way that a happy athlete is a good athlete. A happy athlete is a fast athlete. I love my mom a lot.
The photo is from my under sevens little athletics Saturday morning run. For me it's a funny memory. It's also a good memory because I've obviously come a long way with my technique. It's all over the shots. I
remember little athletics being easily the most fun I've ever had. You'd wake up at 7:00 AM, go down to the local track, hang out with all my friends, race them all. Looking back at this photo, it's nice to see that I've come a long way and that all of those hard times were actually worth it in the end.
I stopped running at 14. As I got older, my body shape changed. You go through different hormonal changes as a young girl. I think I learned a lot when I fell out of athletics. I wasn't mature enough to actually keep going, which is fair enough. It happens and crossing codes into netball taught me that I have to be more disciplined. I have to learn what it's like being a part of a team. I have to actually train hard, and then when I realized that the Olympics were going to be in Rio and I wanted to go back into athletics, I'd grown up a lot. I'd matured a lot. I translated a lot of my netball skillsets into athletics. At the age of 17, I made my first Australian team for track. The rest is just history.
The jacket is the Vic jacket that I received when I made my first cross country team at 10 years old. To me, I thought it was like the sickest piece of uniform that the Vic team could ever come out with. To me, making the team and being able to wear the jacket gave me a lot of belief in myself because it was something I had manifested, something that I had wanted for so long.
Being in the team gave me confidence off the track. I was quite a shy kid growing up. I liked socializing, but I was always the last one to talk. I had that speak when spoken to mentality and making the team with like-minded athletes who are all young, all having fun, it showed me that athletics is a good sport to be a part of. You can make new friends and they'll still be friends til this day, which is quite crazy.
I think a lot of girls in sport drop out early because they think it's not cool enough or there'll be seen as lesser than other people, which is quite sad and that was one thing I wanted to change and still am trying to strive to change is that women, little girls, no matter who you are, you're allowed to play sport. You're allowed to be good at it. You're allowed to have fun. It's okay. We're girls. We're allowed to do that. It's not just up to the boys and I just wish a lot more younger girls knew that they could actually grow up trying to excel and go further with it rather than quitting because they feel like they'll be judged.
I think young girls need to be more kind to themselves. I think reminding myself every day that I am a good person, I am doing the right thing, I'm a good athlete, I'm loving myself. Not in an egotistical way, but it gives me confidence because good thoughts translate into good actions and I try to push out the negativity because I just don't have time for it anymore.
The reasons Liz never quit
Liz loved netball from the get go, yet in year 12 people advised her to drop it. But she stuck with it. That turned out to be a great decision because, not only did it give her “balance, stress relief and something to do” but she ended up becoming the most capped international player for Australian netball.
Finding where you fit
By playing netball Laura managed to turn an overwhelming teenage anxiety into a terrific asset. She knows how hard it is for teenage girls to ‘fit in’ but with the help, acceptance and, ultimately, confidence she got from her netball team, she realised that she could feel comfortable with who she truly was.
Conquering your fears
For Alicia, playing team sport as a young girl gave her confidence to be herself. It taught her the importance of team work, self-belief and how to chase goals. When she told people she wanted to be an Olympian they laughed but she never let anyone tell her she wasn’t good enough, and in 2016 she won gold. Alilcia says having people around you that support you can give you the confidence to be who you want to be.
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