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Olympus girls: Overcoming the digital divide

Jasmine Higgs works out in her lounge room

Meriden’s elite athletes are not letting the latest lockdown laws keep them from working toward their sporting and academic goals. Olympus Program staff have re-launched their specialised support online and the girls enjoy personalised at-home training schedules, nutritional support and a digitally-enhanced wellbeing monitoring system that sees staff and students check in on program participants individually.

Olympus Program Coordinator, Mr Ryan Richards, said the Program continues to provide a high level of support to students that begins with helping them maintain their training routines.

“Coach Stelios Pikoulas has created at-home training programs that reflect each girl’s home environment, access to equipment and sporting needs,” he said.

“Meriden’s online Learning Management System is the Olympus hub, where students and staff convene to swap ‘training hacks’, like filling backpacks with books for resistance exercises, and to access a range of other information, videos, self-assessments and a social stream that keeps participants connected.”

Mr Richards said the most important support comes in the form of wellbeing check-ups provided by Olympus staff and increased access to Meriden’s Counselling team.

“The girls have been tremendously resilient and adaptable and are utilising all the supports offered to them through the Program. The Olympus staff are proud of the way in which the students have remained on top of both their training and their studies and they way they have reached out to each other to provide invaluable peer support,” he said.

Year 11 student, Jasmine Higgs, plays Water Polo in Meriden’s Senior Firsts and has recently been named a member of the Australian Representative Squad. She said she was grateful to the Olympus Program which, together with the support of her family, was helping to ensure her fitness for her national sporting commitments.

“I have borrowed some gym equipment from School to work out and have also been using resistance bands in my backyard pool to maintain my fitness in the water,” she said.

“My family has helped me a lot by joining my workouts, encouraging me and setting up fun weekly challenges where we compete against one another for things like getting to choose what’s for dinner or winning control over the TV remote for the evening! It has also been really valuable for me to be able to talk to other Olympus athletes, as well as our specialised coaches, about how to modify our usual exercises. Doing live training on Microsoft Teams with Coach Chloe makes it feel like we are still working out together as a group, the way we would at school. The experience has really shown how much Meriden cares for us.”

Year 12 student, Chevyone Cheah, is Meriden’s resident archer who took aim for Australia last year at a number of international competitions, including the 2019 Trans-Tasman Challenge, where she secured three gold medals. She has continued to practice her archery during quarantine, albeit on a much smaller scale.

“I am fortunate to have an area in my backyard where I can practice my form and technique,” Chevyone said.

“There’s an upside to shooting shorter distances – I’m unlikely to miss and the cement wall behind my target helps me maintain my focus. There’s also the added motivation to not damage anything – I did accidentally shoot one of my mum’s pot plants once and the memory of it is a pretty strong deterrent!”

Evelyn Haseldine, Year 12, represented Australia in Sailing at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires and has since been a competitor at major national and international events. She said she is aiming to maintain her productivity while learning from home and has done so by sticking to a regular routine.

“I am doing all the things I would do in a normal school day, including studying and training but I have also tried to incorporate new things that being at home has allowed me to do, like cooking dinners, adding running and cycling into my program and reading more to switch off in the evenings. The Olympus Program resources have helped me with planning, finding a sense of achievement and keeping a positive outlook, even if I’m just checking off small daily tasks,” Evelyn said.

“I’m continuing to work toward my long-term goal, which is to apply for a place at university in the USA even though many factors surrounding this are uncertain at the moment. I really appreciate that Mr Richards provides quick and reassuring responses to my questions when I contact him and I look forward to Coach Nicole Boegman-Stewart checking in on me weekly to see how I’m feeling. I know that by focusing on achieving the short-term goals I set myself, I’ll remain on track for completing my SATs and the university application process.”

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