How do elite junior athletes juggle their sport and study commitments? For Canberra netballers Jessica Berry, Hayley Matthew and Samantha Bondietti, it comes down to their support networks.
The majority of the trio's time is spent playing netball, as it became a six-day commitment after they moved into the elite sphere. But it paid off. They have all been chosen in Australia's junior netball squads, and acknowledged juggling their sport and studies would not be possible without their support networks.
It's the third time Berry has been selected and the University of Canberra student put her ability to juggle both commitments down to her family and studies support, something she is hoping to replicate by becoming a teacher herself.
"I had a lot of support from my Daramalan College teachers, so I really want to try and pursue that and help kids in a sporting environment as best I can," the Belconnen and Manly-Warringah player said.
"It's super important, you see kids burn out and drop out of sport, especially during high school, so I think it's really important that teachers help them maintain a school-life balance to keep them involved because it helps mental health, and there's a whole bunch of other benefits."
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Berry was chosen in the under-19 side, alongside Matthew and Bondietti in the under-17 squad. It's the second selection for Bondietti and the year 12 Daramalan College student said she was only able to juggle her schedule with the support of her family, coaches and teachers.
The South Canberra and Capital Spirit player hoped her support networks would help her reach her dream of making the Australian Diamonds squad and a Super Netball side in future. However, for now she was focused on her smaller goals and getting into university next year.
"Netball's good, it keeps you on your toes, and for me it kind of keeps me organised and in a routine ... it's nice having that day-in, day-out kind of training environment," she said.
"[The pandemic] really makes you go, 'Oh I do miss it, I love playing the sport', so not having it is almost a little blessing in disguise."
It was the first selection for Matthew, and while it caught the Spirit player off-guard, she was very excited about the news.
The year 11 Gungahlin College student was in a similar boat to Bondietti, juggling school and netball.
"I genuinely like to make time in my day to do my schoolwork. Otherwise, if I've got a lot going on, I will pull out of training every so often just to make sure my mental health and my schoolwork is good," she said.
"I feel like this selection was a pretty big step for me and I've been jumping up pretty quickly. So I feel like maybe slowing it down a bit more for me personally, might be a good idea just to focus on my education for a bit but otherwise, I want to go as far as I can with the game."
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