I started Physical Culture (BJP) in New South Wales when I was five. I loved to dance and wanted to do something that was fun, where I could meet other children and build up my confidence. My journey started at Belrose Club and then moving on to Narraweena Club. My time at Physie was filled with lots of achievements and lots of disappointments. Competing was in my blood and I was determined to work hard to get great results.
I vividly remember that first ever time when we were out the back after making it to the semi-finals and I thought for sure my number would be called in the final, because after all I had made the final the year before! As the twelfth number was read out and it wasn’t mine I didn’t know how to react. I was sad, disappointed and felt I had done something wrong. It gutted me but also made me grow up. The next year I knew I had to work harder to make that final and I had to give 100% every lesson. Fast forward one year and I was back in that room waiting for numbers to be called and I was there! From then on in I made the final 12 but just couldn’t crack the final placings to make it to the Opera House, but I wasn’t sad as I knew the talent that I was competing against and that they deserved to be there. The highlights then would be getting dressed up and going for a girls night to the Opera House to watch the junior and senior finals in awe of what Physie truly is.
By the age of 15 I went away from Physie as I got a part-time job and of course hanging out with my friends was far more important. I also raced dirt track cars with my dad and that was my passion at the time and I felt I needed a break from Physie.
In 1997 I married my gorgeous husband John. In 2000 we had our first son Jackson and in 2002 we had our second son Patrick. Moving to Queensland in 2005 was a huge change for us all, but the lifestyle suited us.
In 2014 my sister Rach said she found a Physie club but it was part of APDA. Rach and I went off to discover the new Toowoomba Club. For me though, I felt guilty to be out 2 nights a week and also couldn’t find enough hours in the day to support my husband and boys while working full-time.
So, in 2015 I knew I had to do something for myself and realised I wasn’t being selfish, but I did need some “me time”. WOW what a fabulous year I had. I only committed to one day a week enabling that balance with home, but the friendships formed with the ladies group is second to none. Tamara our teacher is truly inspirational. What I loved about last year was that we were all different shapes and sizes. Not once was anyone discouraged from competing and everyone embraced everyone and the support was truly uplifting. Learning the routines in my 40s was also entertaining to say the least. There was that one routine performed to “Ave Maria”, and for the life of me I couldn’t get it. Being a primary school teacher I was embarrassed! The song would start and I would cringe. The competition season began with our club hosting an “Interclub” mid-year. I was so nervous as I am not a small lady, so getting out in a blue leotard with fishnet stockings feeling like a blue Oompah-Loompah was confronting, but it was then also my time to be proud of what I do and embrace it. Prior to the comp I had mentioned in class that I was aspiring to get 6th place as I loved the purple badge, my favourite colour. Needless to say, 6th place was announced and yep my number was called, to me it was like I had won lotto! My team mates just cheered. From that day, I knew that no-one was judging my size but my performance.
We then moved into Team competitions so now not only remembering the moves but being in time with everyone else proved more challenging than I remembered. My other fear, of course, was that dreaded final routine that I still had not got. Pulling on the fishnets once again, but this time in our black team leotards, I had this sense of calm knowing I was with this wonderful bunch of ladies, including my sister. We had worked hard in the lead up to the event, and on the floor we went and we nailed it! WINNERS!!!
Of course, now that teams were over it was back to concentrating on the QLD zone competition as an individual and yep, back in that blue number. Sitting watching the juniors including my niece perform during the day was calming, then it was our turn to head back stage to get ready. I was really nervous as my gorgeous husband and two teenage boys came to watch me perform. I, of course, like so many other parents have been there to support them, so it was also nice to lead by example by getting out there, not worrying about my size and doing my best.
Out the back we drew our numbers and before we knew it we were on the floor. It was AWESOME! I felt so strong, gave everything 100% and lo and behold completed Ave Maria with no errors. Off we came and then we did our routines a second time. Again I felt great. Back to the holding area we went awaiting the results. I had done everything I set out to do for the year and I had no doubts that my number would not be called and that 2016 would be my year. So they started calling the numbers out in numerical order and then my number was called, I was stunned! I looked at my number, looked up again and all our club ladies were cheering. It was phenomenal! I then waited in anticipation for my sisters’ number to be called, but it wasn’t, so I felt sad but knew she was so proud of me. The excitement kicked in as I had never marched out in the final to gain a big certificate and to move onto the National Championships in Sydney! The idea was we would march out in number order but having my hubby and boys in the audience the other competitors agreed that I should go first. I was bursting to march out!
The announcement came “Here are the Novice Ladies Finalists”, and out I marched, huge smile on my face. The cheer from our club was spine tingling.
After that weekend it became real: I was going to the finals in Sydney, not to watch, but to compete. The week of the finals I pulled a muscle in my back, but nothing was stopping me performing so my chiropractor kindly strapped my back in blue tape to match my leotard so it wouldn’t show through. Enter the halls of The Concourse in Chatswood and we were put into two semi-final heats. I performed my heart out and was proud of my achievements to be able to perform next to some very talented ladies. When my number wasn’t called I was not disappointed at all. I had done so much more than I set out to do and ever imagined I was capable of doing.
Here we are in 2016 and I am excited. I am not only competing as a lady again in the Novice section but also assisting our illustrious leader Tamara to teach the 9-12 year old girls.
I have set my goals for the year and can’t wait to see what it all holds for me.
The things that I take from this amazing journey are: I am fitter, more flexible, I have met amazing supportive people including my inspiring teacher, and have rekindled my childhood hobby.
By Nat O’Brien