New Zealand rowing champion Rob Waddell payed a visit to St Peter’s School’s Year 9 and 10 students recently, giving them a few lessons on life, sport and the right attitude.
He explained to the students that he had started out in similar shoes as them – not exactly the greatest athlete in school – sharing a story about how his boat took on water at a school rowing regatta. “To think if someone had said back then, hey, in eight years’ time you’ll be an Olympic champion, that would have brought the house down, no one would ever have believed it, and least of all me,” he said with a smile. “I never saw all the way to that point, what I did see though was the next step up in the ladder.”
One point he repeated to the students was rather simple, “We are what we do repeatedly. Whether you think you can achieve something or you can’t, you’re right, because that’s what goes into your mind every single day, and that’s what you’ll produce when it matters.”
Despite almost two decades passing by since his gold-medal win at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, Rob’s inspiring talk showed he still has his champion mindset and applies it in all areas of life. Now looking back on how high-performance sport has changed since his rowing peak, he said one of the biggest differences was the stigma surrounding mental health.
“I guess an observation I’d make now, about how far it’s come, is sports psychology,” he said. “When I first became part of an Olympic team, it was something where, if you did it there was perceived to be something wrong with you. Now it’s probably much more the normal, if you’re not doing it you’re not doing everything you should be doing to help the team or to help your performance.”
Rob highlighted some of his own nuggets of wisdom when it comes to a champion mindset, including the importance of a positive mindset. “Keeping a positive mindset is off the water too, or off the field of play,” he said. “Everyone has doubt at certain times, it’s what you do with it that’s important.
“People say winning a rowing race is about being tough, it’s not, winning a rowing race is about being clever, it’s about forcing your mind to think the right things under pressure.”