Ashleigh Nelson

Australian Hockey Player and Motivational Speaker

Ashleigh’s Blog

To keep up to date with what Ashleigh and the Hockeyroo’s are up to check out her posts or follow her on twitter @nelson_ashleigh.

Olympic Sportsmanship or Not!

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Olympic Sportsmanship or Not!

PLAYING THE FIELD WITH HOCKEYROOS’ PLAYER AND LONDON OLYMPIAN ASHLEIGH NELSON THE REAL ISSUE OF SPORTSMANSHIP AND THE OLYMPIC IDEALS WHEN ATHLETES ARE INDIFFERENT TO REPRESENTING THEIR COUNTRY AT THE GAMES I write this piece as a previous Olympian, an athlete with minimal financial benefit from her sport, an injured athlete now unable to compete, and a former country girl longing to win an Olympic gold medal. “It should be a fight to make an Australian Olympic team and if the spot is given up so easily, then it never really meant that much in the first place.” Loudy Wiggins – Diver & dual Olympic medalist.   Tennis Sets A Wrong Example Despite the forthcoming focus on the recent controversy created by Australian tennis player Nick Kyrios, please don’t be confused, as this article really isn’t about him. His recent escapade is merely a vehicle to discuss the frustrations of an athlete who could have potentially lost their opportunity to compete to athletes for whom the Olympics is nothing more than a possible calendar event. It is a reflection on how the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has undermined itself and its values by selling its soul and pushing out the little guy. I don’t know Kyrios personally and therefore can’t make a call on who he is and what he stands for as a person. Having said that, I am open in my views that his on-court conduct, as an athlete, is very difficult to support or condone. All athletes have their moments – usually when poor execution and dubious umpiring collide. What is clear is his apparent inability to contain those frustrations, or at the very least challenge the umpire in a respectful manner. I have no doubt that over the course of my career I have probably cast a few filthy stares, argued about a decision during the course of a game, or criticized decisions after the final whistle. I can, however, categorically say I have never threatened an umpire, let alone made crude remarks about my opponent’s relationship status. I haven’t done this because I know that it won’t get me anywhere. I will lose focus as to what’s actually important. It would reflect poorly on myself and my team mates and, during periods of clarity, I truly understand how hard and unrewarding umpiring is. Why is tennis even in the Olympics? Indifference to the Games So, when Kyrios said that he didn’t want to be a part of the Australian Olympic team at Rio, the fact that he wasn’t going didn’t really have any impact on me, although I thought it might be one less athlete the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) might have to deal with. What did annoy me though was that even going to Rio and an Olympics games is essentially a choice for some athletes. From an athlete’s point of view – hockey specifically – where the Olympics is the absolute pinnacle of your sporting career, it’s a milestone event that we work towards for a large portion of our life, only to potentially get one shot at winning a gold medal. Some are luckier than others and have a career that spans a few Olympics, but for many of us, this doesn’t transpire, either through non-selection or injury. (In my case, both,...

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Be More Than An Athlete; How to Transition to a Second Career

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Be More Than An Athlete; How to Transition to a Second Career

FORMER AUSTRALIAN TEAM HOCKEY PLAYER CONTEMPLATES HOW TO TRANSITION TO A SECOND CAREER TO BECOME MORE THAN AN ATHLETE Australian sports stars battles mental illness. It’s a headline known all to well to the public in recent times; a headline most commonly associated with Ben Cousins and Grant Hackett due to their significant profile. With this much media attention and the recent Crossing the Line Summit focusing on athlete transition, it begs the question; how can we help our athletes maintain their mental health when transitioning to life after sport? I had nothing outside of hockey to think about or give me purpose I write this article, not as a professional in the field of psychology but rather an athlete who is currently in the much maligned “transition phase”. It’s a phase that came significantly earlier than I had hoped for; due to injury right before the Rio Olympics, but in sport the opportunity to retire when you are ready and prepared is for the fortunate. Career ending injuries and non-selection are two experiences athletes know all too well and should expect as it is a reality of our occupation. Seeing we can never really know when our time is up, I am a firm believer that transition needs to start at the onset of one’s athletic career. It is quite easy to lose sight of who and what else you actually are Let’s keep in mind that no matter how many interventions and prevention strategies we put into place there will always be a percentage of athletes that will develop a mental health condition. Athlete are not exempt from the reality that 45% of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. This heart breaking statistic shouldn’t stop us however from helping our athletes in a phase of their life when stress, anxiety and a lack of direction is very real and prominent. RELATED: Playing The Field by Ashleigh Nelson I have offered some ideas on strategies below, which I feel are important for athletes to consider at the start of their career. You might agree or disagree but if it triggers a conversation it will go some way to helping athletes find their new path. Be more than an athlete From early in my career the phrase: “oh you’re the hockey player”, was one that I heard on a regular basis. It didn’t particularly phase me at the time but upon reflection, after years of only associating yourself with being an athlete, it is quite easy to lose sight of who and what else you actually are. RELATED: Breaking Free – a podcast on mental health issues among sportswomen In 2008, while training for the Beijing Olympic Games I literally gave everything up – my work and studying to be an Occupational Therapist as well as socialising as much as I normally would. Needless to say when I started to perform poorly I had nothing outside of hockey to think about or give me purpose. When I wasn’t selected to be part of the Olympic team, I lost the one thing that, at the time, defined me as a person. As a result my mental well being and health suffered. I was never diagnosed with depression but it was one of the most unnerving, confusing and stressful periods...

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Ashleigh Nelson’s “Road to Rehab”

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Ashleigh Nelson’s “Road to Rehab”

Who would have thought 100 days till Rio would be so significant? In an athlete’s mind it was a clear reminder that we had 100 days to perfect those last few skills, 100 days to finalise structures and 100 days till the team was 100% ready to take the field. The last thing that I thought it would mean was 100 days of rehab and 100 days of knowing that I wouldn’t be going to the Olympics. As magical as sport can be, it can be equally brutal, something that most athletes know all to well. Sadly as fate would have it 100 days out from the Rio Olympics I tore my Anterior Cruciate Ligament during an intra-squad game for the Hockeyroos. Above: My partner Aaron and I once I came out of surgery. One of the rare moments where I could keep my eyes open. It was such an innocuous incident with my right knee giving way as I planted my foot to pass the ball. In hindsight I wish I had been selfish and ignored my free teammate, but clearly my time of having an intact ACL was up. As you can see in the video below it was a remarkably unspectacular event, which is sure to get no more than 10 views on you tube. For those who have not had the pleasure of tearing their ACL, along with their lateral and medial meniscus, with a dose of torn hamstring in there too; well …….. it bloody hurts. Tears were not shed given there was no room for them, amidst the groans and expletives that were pouring out of my mouth (fortunately not captured on camera). It was a confusing couple of minutes for me, unsure if I had dislocated my kneecap (which would have been preferable) or torn my ACL. After tearing my ACL in my left knee in 2004 at age 17, I knew that if this was the case then my dream of a second Olympics was over. It may have been the adrenaline or the sheer will to prove that I hadn’t torn my ACL, but soon after the incident I got up and walked off the field with minimal discomfort. Trying to keep composed I followed Eddie Maguire’s advice and phoned a friend (more specifically my Mum) to take me to the Sports Physician and to get scans to see the true damage. Still trying to play the injury down, I thought it best to help myself to a bowl of sultana bran while watching the rest of the game. Sadly despite my best efforts my composure and positivity about the whole situation came to a grinding halt. Tests by the Sports Physician indicating a positive full ACL rupture were confirmed by a MRI shortly after. Being a relatively positive person, I have had many people query if this upset me at all. Short answer is ABSOLUTELY. How could one not be upset? Since age 5 I have been playing hockey, making my first state team at 14 years and then debuting for the Hockeyroos at 21. That means that I have dedicated 15 years of my life training at a state or international level all with the aim of playing at the Olympics Games. To then not have the opportunity...

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Western Australian of the Year Awards 2015

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Western Australian of the Year Awards 2015

The Western Australian of the Year Awards recognise the highest level of contribution made to Western Australia by those born and bred in Western Australia, or those who have chosen to make Western Australia their home. There are seven Award categories and for each, one winner is chosen. The overall Western Australian of the Year Awards winner for 2015 is chosen from amongst the Award category winners. Sport Award proudly sponsored by Hardy Brothers Jewellers Recognises excellence in achievement, development, administration or promotion of sport in the Western Australian community. The 2015 Sport Award finalists are: Ashleigh Nelson Judith Rae Pilatti Daniel Ricciardo Andrew Vlahov For more info please check...

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Australian Hockey League Preview 2014

Posted by on 5:49 am in Blog | 0 comments

Australian Hockey League Preview 2014

Sandgropers, crow eaters, gum suckers, top enders, banana benders, apple eaters, cockroaches & round-about abouters have all taken to sunny Brisbane to fight it out in this years Australian Hockey League. With a different team taking out the tournament in the past 4 years it is set to be a competitive tournament showcasing the best players Australia has to offer both senior and up and coming. For people interested in knowing more about their team or their opposition here’s a quick summary. (Alphabetically listed) Australian Capital Territory: Despite being small in size ACT often packs a punch and has produced quality international players including the likes of past Hockeyroos Katrina Powell and Peta Gallagher. ACT’s best performance recently came in 2004 where they came second to the WA Diamonds. Although they haven’t won the competition in the past 10 years they have been a solid side making the top 4 on a regular basis, and being in contention to take the title. ACT has a talented list including Hockeyroo Edwina Bone who endeavours to break the game open with her fitness and strength on the ball. She will be flanked by previous international young player of the year Anna Flanagan returning from Holland adding an extra element to ACT’s penalty corner attack. Other athletes including Naomi Evans & Jenna Cartwright will be a positive influence through ACT’s midfield/strike line. International imports include talented defender Samantha Charlton from the New Zealand Blacksticks and Kate Gillis, captain of the Canadian hockey team. New South Wales: With 2 grand final appearances in the last 3 years without taking out the much coveted AHL trophy, NSW will be looking to make amends this time round. Despite being a youthful team, they certainly have the talent to take out the title if they perform to their potential and on a consistent basis. With the return of Casey Eastham vice captain of the Hockeyroos from Holland, NSW will enjoy having the stability and experience through the midfield. Teams will have to defend well against NSW with talented and experienced forwards Emily Smith, Hollie Webster alongside young gun Mariah Williams featuring in their line up. Developing defender Georgie Morgan will head up the defence for NSW supported by Jocelyn Bartram in the goals. Northern Territory: A lack of athlete numbers has been a long standing problem for the Northern Territory making it difficult to form a side which is in contention for a finals berth. Despite this setback NT has formed a comprehensive side including imports from WA and QLD. Unfortunately due to injury at the recent Commonwealth Games they will not have their star local player Brooke Peris to assist in their AHL endeavours. Although NT has faced the logistical issue of not training together for a long period of time, they have always caused upsets due to their persistent and dogged nature in performance. With a talented ninja in the net AKA Lizzy Duguid, NT will be tough to score against. Queensland: Last years winners and regular finals contenders QLD are one of the hot favourites to take out this years honours. With a list of household names in the Hockeyroos side and many talented juniors, they certainly have the lineup for back to back premierships. Led by Hockeyroos captain and experienced AHL campaigner...

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RUOK? and the Kokoda Experience.

Posted by on 6:17 am in Blog | 0 comments

RUOK? and the Kokoda Experience.

RUOK? and the Kokoda Experience.  Kokoda, it is a name that resonates and evokes a sense of pride and loss with so many Australians. Despite many not having family members involved in the Kokoda Trail campaign, it would be difficult to find someone who hasn’t contemplated what hardships faced by many young men from a range of countries in Papua New Guinea in 1942. Words can barely justify how much of a harrowing yet emotionally fulfilling experience Kokoda was for both Rachael and myself. To see just how many young lives were taken far too early from this world was distressing. All men on the trail no matter what ethnicity was a son, brother, husband and father to someone. Knowing so many wives were left to raise their children alone, knowing many daughters no longer had their father to walk them down the aisle and loving parents would be forever hoping for their sons return made that moment profoundly difficult comprehend. It was at Bomana Cemetery in Port Moresby where many of the soldiers were buried that the significance of our charity walk was put into context for me personally. As I looked at the countless rows of headstones I realised that there were just as many young men and women in our country every year that have so much to offer but are lost to suicide, leaving their loved ones with the same feelings of unimaginable grief and loss experienced by families over the Kokoda campaign. At that moment I hoped our walk and the money raised would make a difference to someone and their family, even if it was just one. Day to day living in today’s society has become somewhat of a battlefield. Pressure to make more money, be seen with the right people, to parent well, make ends meet, work to deadlines, have the right body image, be an A grade student, climb the work place ladder plus many more are all stressors which we all place on ourselves in our ever busy lifestyle. Along side these external pressures, genetic predisposition, chemical imbalances and increase in drug use are all factors contributing to an increase in depression and suicide within Australia. Current statistics indicate that on average there are 6 PEOPLE dying every day from suicide equating to 2,600 individual lives lost per year. Although this is a staggering statistic, what’s equally alarming is the estimated 65,000 suicide attempts in the same year. We opted to raise funds for the mental health group – RUOK? based on the simplicity of their campaign and the amazing people who have worked tirelessly for the organisation to expand it to a national level. There is no doubt that Australians typically have a bad habit of ‘beating around the bush’ and not being direct with each other, in both questioning and answering during a conversation. If I could donate a $1 to the RUOK? campaign, every time an Australian responds ‘yeah good mate’ when asked ‘how ya goin?’, we would never have to ask the government for more space in the budget again for better mental health care. RUOK? promotes the idea of being open and also allowing oneself to be vulnerable, which can be hard thing particularly for Australian men who account for up to 75% of the...

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A GOLDEN 9 SECONDS – RECAP OF THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES

Posted by on 6:21 am in Blog | 0 comments

A GOLDEN 9 SECONDS – RECAP OF THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES

This wasn’t how it was meant to be. 2 minutes remaining and England persist in defending their circle and overhearing the ball over our press resulting in a lack of attack. We are 1 nil down and after a highly successful tournament letting in only 1 goal prior to the final it hardly seemed fair to lose the final. I still remember looking at the clock and seeing 2 minutes remaining, coming to the conclusion that I had to prepare myself that we had lost the Gold Medal despite such dominance in the tournament. What a kick in the gut that would be! As fate would have it  in the final play of the game along with the assistance of Georgie Parker, I was able to work the ball into the circle and be rewarded with the much needed penalty corner. The whole time I had it on the end of my stick I can remember thinking just don’t do anything stupid i.e kick it. Fortunatley I have size 6 feet so it would have been a pretty special effort had I managed to do that. 6 games which equates to 420 minutes of match play (look at my mad maths skills, thanks school) and it all came down to 9 seconds !! You could almost equate the final short corner to a 100m sprint. We had to execute when the pressure was high and any mistake could result in the loss of a gold medal. The initial flick from Anna Flanagan was saved by Maddie Hinch but as luck would have it, it fell to in form Jodie Kenny who made no mistake in flicking the ball back into the low right hand corner of the goal. Raw emotion took over and poor Jodie felt the wrath of my excitement scaling her long limbs like a koala bear and squeezing her with all my might. We hadn’t even won but given that all hope had been lost just 1 minute before, the fact we were going to one on ones and still had a chance to win that highly prized medal we were all riding high. Usually in shoot outs I am a nervous wreck opting to keep my head down and murmur a series of words much like a mad voodoo woman. Surprisingly however, given our current knack of getting ourselves into these situations and coming out on top (never losing a one on one contest) I was fairly calm and confident. Once again the preparation to know the opposition goalie and their key penalty takers paid dividends. Rach Lynch continued to tackle better than any striker in our team to force many missed opportunities for England, giving some breathing space to our girls who were selected to take the penalties. Our much loved El Capitano Madonna Blyth was landed with the job of taking the final penalty which would secure our win. And what a fitting way to win the gold medal as Donny really does epitomise what the Hockeyroos are all about – persistant, tough and calm under pressure. As the ball sailed into the goal, Donny opened her arms like a an albatross in full flight preparing herself for the herd of elephants (the non plenty takers) storming the field headed in her general direction....

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Finals time

Posted by on 6:25 am in Blog | 0 comments

Finals time

A 9-0 win v home side Scotland and follow up 3-0 victory against England has cemented a spot for us to be in contention for the Commonwealth gold medal match. Although we can continue to progress and make many improvements in certain areas of our game, it has been a clinical performance thus far. With 25 goals for and 0 against, it is a start that we are happy to take. Drag flicking specialist Jodie Kenny  has been much more reliable than a sundial at midnight putting away almost half of the teams goals. It is a great reward for Jodie who has worked hard on developing her set skill, which is now paying dividends and we hope she can continue this form into the finals. Around the village we have been proactive in celebrating many special occasions. Eddie Bone, Jane Claxton and Karri McMahon all celebrated their 50th games for the Hockeyroos over the past few games. Meanwhile Emily Smith celebrated yet another birthday on tour turning the ripe old age of 22. In true Hockeyroo creativity and possible stinginess we proudly made Smitty a cake consisting off 2 giant pre baked cookies joined together with local Scottish ice cream. It was a genius creation warmly received by all who tasted it and received their daily calorie intake in one mouthful. Rach Lynch and I also had the opportunity to catch up with para-athlete Kurt Fearnley to pick up some tips on our Kokoda Trek. Kurt managed to complete the Kokoda Trek alongside his family and friends through use of only his arms. His primary piece of advice to Rach and I was …..’try not to crawl it.” This was great advice and put things into context, if Kurt could manage to overcome the trek using his arms alone than I think we really couldn’t complain about how hard it actually might be. A truly inspiring guy and it was a honour to chat with him. I also must congratulate Kurt on his silver medal performance in tonights race. Once again the Hockeyroos were getting the royals on the #roovolution bandwagon with Harry, William and Kate dropping in to watch a game. It was once again exciting to meet them with many of the girl having their phone numbers at the ready for Harry and showing great admiration for Kate who was wearing some significantly high wedges with great style. Rach Lynch claimed Harry proposed to her as indicated in the photo below but as we are yet to see any formal invitations, the jury is still out on this rumour. With the remainder of the games in our opposing pool being played, we will be playing South Africa in the semi-final with NZ set to take on England in the other semi. South Africa although ranked 11th in the world at the moment have shown they are capable of performing well against higher ranked opposition. Their game v NZ was at a high tempo and they pressed and counter attacked quite effectively especially in the second half. The end result was 2-1 to NZ, however with SA displaying many patches of dominance it could have been a far different scoreline had they been more clinical in the circle. Our game is scheduled to take place at 12:15pm tomorrow (Scotland...

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A Queenie Photobomb Kinda Day.

Posted by on 6:29 am in Blog | 0 comments

A Queenie Photobomb Kinda Day.

Apparently there was a hockey game on today. I was there and witnessed the Australian Women’s Hockey Team win their 1st game of the Commonwealth Games 4-0 vs Malaysia. Although we take our matches very seriously, sometimes life presents abundant opportunities. Today it was who could get the best selfie with non-other than our very lovely Queen Elizabeth more affectionately known as Queenie. I was fortunate enough to get in early with a candid shot of our marked lady on her way into the stadium. I had unfortunately missed the first game due to injury ……. but had a minor perk of stumbling across the Queen while the girls were ice bathing. The 10m perimeter set a serious challenge and resulted in the long range selfie. We were fortunate enough to be allowed to get a little closer to Queenie later in the day, with our Captain Madonna Blyth even being able to personally greet her. Known for her manners and ability to speak well Donnie was the perfect representative while the rest of us remained well contained behind the netting. The netting did not stop us from wielding our iPhones with many of the cameras set on rapid fire, attempting to capture the moment. And if you haven’t seen it yet, you have been living under a rock because it seemed the Queen was ready and raring to photobomb. Apparently she has been taking lessons from her Grandchildren …..probably Harry lets face it and the results of her efforts were stunning and have gone viral especially with Jayde Taylor and Brooke Peris’ photo below. It was an absolute blast to have won our first game v Malaysia, but to have a selfie with the Queen has satisfied one section of my bucket list! The challenge is set – which athlete can outdo the Australian Womens Hockey Team selfie effort? Do you think Usain Bolt would be keen to have a photo with us and join the #roovolution that is happening in Australian Womens Hockey at the moment ??? Lets face it he is the King of athletics and all the countries in the Commonwealth love a little bit of royalty . Stay tuned for more news and our progression through the game. Next up Wales tomorrow at 2pm.   Ashleigh Nelson #8 – Australian Womens Hockey...

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Hockeyroos Bound into Rabobank Hockey World Cup Final

Posted by on 6:36 am in Blog | 0 comments

Hockeyroos Bound into Rabobank Hockey World Cup Final

The World Cup is a very complicated tournament – six games, seven if you make it to the final – and maybe if you lose one game you’re out, even if you’re the best.      – Pele- It only seemed fitting to quote soccer great Pele with the arrival of the Soccer World Cup. But before Australia focuses on what’s happening in the soccer, it is important to realise that Australia has the opportunity to take out a Hockey World Cup with the Hockeyroos progressing through to the final. It has been a hard slog with all six game being difficult to win. It has been so close that we have actually only won most games by one goal (no doubt stressing our poor supporters and coaching staff). Going into the tournament we were probably expected to be finals contenders but as Pele states even one slip can result in a champion team losing a World Cup which if given attention could have been a worrying thought. Although we have not been as clinical as we would have liked in front of goals we have remained focused and accrued enough points to play in the semi final vs USA. USA was an unnerving opponent in some respects. Although they currently sit 10th in the world they had progressed through this tournament beating higher ranked teams including worthy adversaries Germany and England, while drawing with world number 2 Argentina. It was evident USA were riding high on confidence and with nothing to lose they were throwing everything they had at progressing to the gold medal match, which can be difficult to match up against. If spectators thought the round games had been close, the semi final proved to push the limits of anxiety. By the end of the game, grey hairs were clearly visible on most of the spectators head glistening in the sun amongst the sea of yellow. I felt we had most of the control for 60 minutes of the game, holding a 2-1 lead with two minutes to go. Unfortunately due to some ordinary defensive work in our attacking 25 we allowed USA to breakaway resulting in a goal. The goal was contentious with the ball being lifted into the shoulder of Madonna Blyth and then deflecting into the goal. Given the time remaining on the clock and the reaction of the players “complaining” about the dangerous nature of the ball it was surprising that it was not reviewed by the 3rd umpire. As we had lost our ability to refer the goal to the 3rd umpire we were relying on the umpire to make her own referral which unfortunatley did not happen. There is no doubt umpires have a difficult job and are not be able to make the right calls all of the time especially in the heat of the moment. This is why appropriate use of the 3rd umpire is so imperative. Utilising available technology should not be frowned upon especially when it comes to potential tournament changing calls and in this instance it was something that could have been better utilised. As I said umpiring is a hard job something that I would find difficult to do, but as the game progresses with rule changes and speed of the game increases use of technology in...

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