Exclusive column: Kathryn Slattery on the highs and lows of being a professional athlete
The decision to give up something you love is never easy but for South Stirling hockey star Kathryn Slattery the life of a professional athlete has been a fulfilling yet challenging experience.
Stepping away from international hockey indefinitely and onto her next chapter in life, Slattery has penned this exclusive column for the Albany Advertiser.
I moved to Perth 10 years ago to pursue my hockey dreams and in that time I managed to debut for my country and be a contributing member for the Hockeyroos for four years.
In those four years I achieved massive highs such as going to the Rio Olympics in 2016 and playing at the World Cup this year.
Those were incredible times and I will always distinctly remember running out on to the pitch at my first game in the Olympics and seeing my family dressed in the Aussie kit in the crowd. But as with all sport, highs also come with lows.
I missed selection to the Commonwealth Games held on the Gold Coast this year and got sent home from a tournament in June due to a tear in my hamstring.
Those things are difficult to process and not to be able to achieve things I had set out to was disappointing, to say the least.
Ultimately, elite level sport is a high-pressure environment and one that I relished for many years.
We trained or played six days a week, including stick training, running and gym.
On top of that we also had hockey meetings, psych sessions and recovery all designed to improve our performance and deal with the gruelling international-level environment.
We would then also travel for huge chunks of the year to a long list of countries, with tours through Europe, Asia, New Zealand and Argentina and more, which was a challenging but exciting time.
For years this was my life and one that I thoroughly enjoyed as I looked to continually improve and perform for the team.
As such it was very difficult to come to the decision to step away and a challenge in itself to move on from something I have dedicated my life to.
Over the past 12 or so months I began to have frustrations with the program and struggled with some poor communication and general instability from Hockey Australia.
We had a changeover of coaches and support staff at the beginning of 2017 and the new structures took time to settle, with both of our new assistant coaches moving on quite quickly from the program.
I felt my passion dwindle over this time and tried many different avenues over the past 12 or so months to increase my enjoyment and overall satisfaction with this environment.
Eventually I reached the stage where I felt I personally wasn’t getting enough to continue and started making plans to move on to other areas in my life.
As most elite athletes will say, I have had some amazing experiences playing my sport where I felt exhilarated and have created amazing moments I will never forget.
It also created some very challenging periods of time that tested me in different ways.
I have not officially retired and my future with hockey remains unwritten; however, for now I have many other interests and passions I would like to pursue and I am excited about having the opportunity to do that.
I would like to extend a massive thank you to my family and friends who have been extremely supportive and made sacrifices, large and small to help me in my journey.
I would also like to thank the community in Albany, South Stirling and surrounding areas for the incredible support and following over the years.
I have been blown away by how closely some people have followed my career and have always felt a great sense of pride to be representing this region.
I hope my successes inspire others to pursue their dreams, or at the least to get or stay involved with a sporting community and club because it is not only physically healthy but socially and mentally rewarding as well.
It is a nervous time stepping away but also one I am very excited about.
I have a few different plans in motion and I am looking forward to some new challenges in other areas.
For now my hockey is on hold indefinitely, but for me the future is an exciting one.
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