Susie O’Neill: The One Piece Of Advice I Will NOT Pass On To My Daughter
14 August 2020
Broadcaster and Former Olympic athlete Susie O’Neill reflects on advice she received during her sporting career, and her future hopes for daughter Alix.
My daughter Alix is my rock. She’s one of the most important people in my life and an all-round good egg.
As an Olympic athlete and broadcaster, I’ve learned a lot over the years. That said, nothing prepares you for the challenges of parenthood. Of course, I want Alix to live her best possible life. All I can do is arm her with the tools to tackle any challenge life may throw at her.
One piece of advice I will never pass onto my daughter? Worry or anxiety is a sign of weakness.
This was something ingrained into my psyche when I was playing professional sport. I was taught to never show weakness or vulnerability. It was understood that a showing a lack of confidence would mean I was ‘weak’.
This isn’t a healthy way to think or approach life, nor does it give the best outcome in a sporting event.
Instead, let’s encourage young girls to feel comfortable reaching out to their parents, friends or trainers for help and support.
I’ll never forget the bonds I created with the girls in my swimming squad. As girls, we’d share our hopes, dreams and frustrations. We’d build each other up and support each other through the good times and the bad.
They say people come into your life for a season, a reason or a lifetime. I can safely say, the relationships I built as a girl playing sport have continued far beyond my professional career. These relationships have continued to blossom into adulthood and I’m lucky to surround myself with a tribe of likeminded, strong and confident women.
Let’s set girls up with these strong support networks. If we help girls identify their strengths and follow their interests, it’ll help them build trusted relationships for encouragement and reassurance.
I want my daughter to feel comfortable with failure. Of course, I want Alix to push and challenge herself — but there’s no point worrying or stressing when things don’t go to plan. The world isn’t going to end!
As such, it’s important not be too rigid with our goals. The world is always changing, and possibilities are always in flux. Amazing opportunities arise when you least expect them. A strong and supportive support network will help put failure into context.
Questions for Susie presented by Suncorp Team Girls
I’ve got some questions I’m going to try and answer without having a look at them. So let’s have a look, I’ll just go through them.
Do you ever Google yourself?
No, never. I did once, never again.
What’s your biggest hope for your daughter?
Oh wow, that’s a hard one. I mean, you always say “I want her to be happy”. But I’d like her to be fulfilled and I’d like her to feel energised just about getting up each day.
When was the first time you faced a big challenge?
It was probably going to Open Nationals as a swimmer and not for the swimming side of it, that was fine. I was 14 years old. It was more the social side of it. You know, trying to fit in with people who are a lot older than me in a competition type atmosphere. I really remember that, it was 1988 and I just really felt like a fish out of water. No pun intended.
What was the last advice your daughter gave you?
She was showing me how you insert a doona in a doona cover yesterday and how she ties it in the corners so it doesn’t move around. Is that, do you reckon that’s advice?
What’s the best thing about Social Media?
I think it was good, a good way, for my kids to stay connected during lockdown. I mean even though we’re all stuck at home, I noticed they were talking with their friends a lot using social media like Snapchat, Instagram, etc. So it’s a good way to keep in contact with friends.
What’s the worst thing about Social Media?
I don’t like how it provides a conduit to people and people’s whose opinion or what they say, you may not want to hear. To me, sometimes it feels like: you know when people talk behind your back? You don’t want to know about it. That’s where it should stay. But people talk behind your back, you can see it on Social Media. That’s what I don’t like about it.
When was the first time you felt pressure get to you?
That would be… I don’t know what year it was. We were doing an English oral at school. Actually you know what, any English oral at school. Because I used to get so nervous that I couldn’t speak, like – it terrified me, terrified me.
Did you ever think about quitting swimming during your career?
Yes, the biggest time I thought about quitting swimming was probably when I was around 21. I thought I was over the hill. Funny isn’t it? I thought I was too old. I wasn’t improving. I’d sort of been in a plateau. It’s kind of ridiculous. Anyway I ended up changing coaches and kept swimming. But I seriously considered quitting at 21.
When was the last time you felt out of your depth?
I often feel out of my depth. I often feel like I’m faking it. We had to do a piece to camera this morning promoting one of the segments on our show – Smarter than Suse. It was a sales type thing. I think I felt out of my depth doing that.
When did you realise your daughter isn’t a little girl anymore?
I think it’s this year. She just started to learn to drive and it is weird. Because I just think of her as little Alex, little toddler. And now I look over and she’s driving the car. It spins me out.
What was the last advice you gave your daughter?
The last advice I gave my daughter was to play the game. We were talking about schoolwork and how a lot of results are maybe subjective of people’s opinions. So, I’m saying play the game. Go to the tutes. Do the extra stuff that the teachers want you to do and it might come back to you.
When was the first time you knew you could be a champion?
I just remember it like it was yesterday. I was about 10 years old – 10 or 11 – and I was at the pool, hibiscus gardens, with my coach. At the judges stand at the end of the pool and my coach Mr Wayfield said to me “One day people will know your name like Shane Gould”, he’s a famous swimmer. I was like wow, and I don’t know I just felt like… I mean it’s easy to say now in retrospect. It really lit a spark and that’s when I knew I could be a good swimmer.
End frame 1: Let’s build a nation of confident girls.
Suncorp Team Girls.
End frame 2: Suncorp Team spirit.