Elite female stars juggling motherhood, work, a sporting career

Anna Heasman Columnist

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    The Netball World Cup was a dark place until Sharelle McMahon jumped on the scene.

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    Something that’s stayed with me is an episode of the The Price is Right from 2004, when Sharelle McMahon was told to ‘Come on down!’

    Sharelle and Larry Emdur exchanged some brief small talk which went along the lines of “So, what do you do to keep fit?”

    “Oh, I run a bit and also play netball,” she replied.

    Emdur was completely oblivious to the fact he was talking to a key member of the Australian Diamonds.

    Fast forward to 2013 and with the netball season fast approaching, 35-year-old Sharelle McMahon will return to the court for the Melbourne Vixens after recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, and the birth of her child.

    I can only imagine the hurdles she faces with a new bub at home fitting it all in.

    It’s really got me thinking about this particular challenge – one of many that are unique to female athletes.

    I think it’s fair to say that the glass ceiling (while it remains) has certainly been cracked in terms of women in the workforce returning to pursue their professional goals after starting a family.

    However, I wonder when it comes to sport, do the more traditional societal expectations remain somewhat? Is it considered self indulgent?

    Are our own interests expected to fall at the wayside?

    Unless you’re one of the elite few, say Maria Sharapova and the like, for a professional female athlete you do it for the love of it and not for the money, mainly because there’s bugger-all up for grabs in terms of cash.

    So you can imagine the predicament faced, with the added financial constraint of having kids not to mention the time invested as a primary caregiver, when trying to justify continuing a sporting career.

    Possibly juggling a job on top of that along with an extreme case of ‘mummy’ guilt just adds to the difficulty.

    Personally, I strongly believe becoming a mum doesn’t instantly qualify you for athletic retirement, however there’s no doubt a well rounded support network is an absolute necessity.

    I asked one of my teams veterans’ Rykki Casey, from my Green Bay Chill team, to describe a typical day.

    She is a mother of three – all sporty/multi-talented kids, with lots of extracurricular activities – a foster carer, a wife, a graphic designer and linebacker for Green Bay.

    That’s a lot of hats. In the year or so I’ve known Rykki I’ve become in absolute awe of her, I also nearly feel off my chair when she gave me the rundown of her average day. Here’s what she told me:

    “Well, it all begins around 4.45am for a workout at the gym before the rest of the house is awake. 

    “Halfway through the workout I have to send text messages to make sure that my oldest of three is awake and getting ready for school.

    “When I get home I make sure that he is ready for school. A few minutes later I wake up my middle child. She starts school an hour later.

    “While she is getting ready I wake up my youngest so he can get up and be ready for his bus ride to his first school for the day. In between all three of my children is a little guy that we are watching to help a family out. He is three months old.

”Around 8.00am the regular children I watch start to arrive. There are only two that come in the morning. At 11.30am my youngest gets off the bus and it’s time to feed the kids lunch before the next child comes at noon.

    “I pack up all of the kids and take my youngest and another little girl to afternoon school. Then it’s time to get the kids home to take naps. 

”At 3.00pm my oldest gets home from school. Then I get the kids up and ready to head out again. This time it is to drop off another little girl by her grandma and pick up my youngest from school. Then I pick up my daughter from another school.

    “When we get home it is time to make dinner and send another child out the door with their family. Sometimes dinner is ‘whatever you can grab’.

    “My two oldest children play soccer and have practices or games four days a week. Some nights we go from a soccer game in one town and a basketball game in a completely different town.

”My husband is a Junior College Men’s Basketball coach. So he is busy nine months out of the year with practices, recruiting, scouting, games and whatever else you want to throw in there.

”Needless to say life gets a little crazy! Oh, wait! You have to throw in the graphic design work that I do for the gym where I workout.”

    I feel exhausted just reading it – what a woman, hey?

    Getting hassled by a parent or partner about spending too much time playing video games? Now, you can tell them the story of how some ordinary gamers scored $225k for just seven weeks of work.

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    The Crowd Says (5)

    • March 15th 2013 @ 9:25am
      Hospital said | March 15th 2013 @ 9:25am | ! Report

      Ha, I must admit I didn’t know the ‘Price Is Right’ story. Classic!

    • March 15th 2013 @ 10:31am
      Sailosi said | March 15th 2013 @ 10:31am | ! Report

      Haha, I remember this episode. If I recall correctly Emdur may have been given some information in his earpiece because I think after a while they made reference to the fact she played for Australia.

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download it now [http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/the-roar/id327174726?mt=8].

    • Columnist

      March 15th 2013 @ 8:36pm
      Joe Gorman said | March 15th 2013 @ 8:36pm | ! Report

      good article Anna. Women in sport definitely need more coverage and more respect

    • March 16th 2013 @ 2:35am
      Rykki Casey said | March 16th 2013 @ 2:35am | ! Report

      Thank you Anna for writing an article about this subject matter. I love my life and know that there are many women out there doing the same things as I. Like coach says, “leave your baggage at the door.” If you don’t really know me you don’t know what I go through to be able to be on the field. It’s a little thing called dedication.

    • March 19th 2013 @ 7:03pm
      Blaze said | March 19th 2013 @ 7:03pm | ! Report

      Its a nice thought to give women sport more coverage but the viewers really aren’t there and for no reason of their own.

      People generally want to see the BEST AFL, or NRL or soccer, not the 2nds or a lesser quality league

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