Hockey has taken Jodie Schulz from the small rural community of Wamuran to the Olympic Games in London.
She spoke to The Westerner about her Olympic journey.
What got you started in hockey, and how old were you?
I was about six years old when I picked up my first hockey stick. My older sister Wendy started playing with her school friends and enjoyed it, so the family decided to head down the local Wamuran Hockey Club and join up.
How long have you been wanting to play hockey for Australia at an Olympic Games, and what did it mean for you to be named to go to London?
Playing for Australia at an Olympic Games has been an absolute life fulfilling dream for me since I was a little girl. To be given an opportunity in any match to wear that green and gold is an amazing feeling and one that comes with a lot of pride. I don’t think I can explain what I’m going to be feeling when I’m out on that Olympic pitch playing for my country. I guess you could say it means everything to me at this point in my life. I have practically trained day in, day out, with many great moments and also many sacrifices all towards that one goal – to play in an Olympic Games!
When and how did you know you wanted to be an Olympian?
I knew as soon as I started playing basically. I am an extremely competitive person so I always wanted to strive to be my best and competing at an Olympics was how I was going to achieve that.
What is it like knowing that you are about to fulfil your Olympic dream?
It feels amazing! I am really excited about stepping out on that Olympic pitch wearing the green and gold. It is definitely going to be the greatest moment of my life and something I have dreamed of doing since I picked up my first hockey stick as a six-year-old.
Given Australia’s history of success in hockey at the Olympics, do you feel a weight of expectation or any added pressure to do well in London?
I believe that the women winning gold in the past does bring some expectation but it also brings with it belief that we can do it. They have been world number one and won gold, we just need to take every step in the right direction to get back there. This team is still quite young and inexperienced and if you were to look at the ages and number of caps of the girls that won gold you would see a noticeable difference. We however have a great team and coaching staff and we are going to give it our all.
The past results obviously bring with it pressure to perform but I guess it’s no more then the expectations we have for ourselves as a team. All we can do is go out there and compete at our best and I think we will make the country proud either way.
What are your expectations for the Olympics, and what goals has the team set itself?
Obviously we have our eyes on the big prize – the gold medal – but I believe a realistic goal would be a podium finish. As for me I just want to play well, achieve my individual goals and enjoy the experience.
Who will be the teams to beat in London?
I think the strong teams in London will be Holland and Argentina, however anything can happen at the Olympics so each and every game is a must-win.
What advice have the more experienced players given you about what to expect at the Olympics?
I guess they have told us the details of what to expect and how to handle everything that comes with the games experience. They have shared with us their experiences, which has given us more of an idea of what to expect when we get to the Games. The Olympics are so different to a normal international tournament. At this stage only the past Olympians know what to expect when it hits game time.
What do you think is the key to your success in sport?
The key to my success has been hard work, dedication and persistence. I’ve had to work very hard to get where I am today and I have made a lot of sacrifices but it’s going to be all worth it when I step out on that field.
Are you surprised by your rapid rise to make the Australian team?
I guess I have been surprised by my rise within the team once making the initial selection. However, I did find it difficult to crack the side with many missed selections prior to my inclusion in the Aussie team at age 23. Once making the team though and given the opportunities, I am really happy with what I have achieved. It only feels like yesterday when I played my first international game and I recently celebrated my 50th on the London tour just gone.
Many Olympians represent their country without having a solid financial grounding to follow their dreams. Do you feel extra proud of your Olympic achievement given that Aussie hockey players don’t receive much in the way of funding or sponsorship, compared to other sports?
Yes I think that is spot on. Hockey players are not paid much, especially when comparing it to other sports, but to us it’s not about the money. And in saying that I do think we have a right to feel extra proud in our Olympic achievement.
Who were your sporting heroes growing up?
I always remember watching the women play but in particular one player. (Hockeyroos player) Angie Skirving, now Angie Lambert, was a player that always stood out for me and I guess it was because I wanted to play like her and thought I had similar attributes as a player. She was a tall defender that had an awesome drag flick, something that I always dreamed of doing.
What are some of your favourite Olympic moments, from any sport?
My all time favourite Olympic moment would have to be the Hockeyroos winning gold in 2000. Another one of my favourites would also be Cathy Freeman’s 400m gold medal win.
Who have been the biggest influences on your sporting career?
I would have to say my family. My dad was my first ever coach and one of the main reasons I am how I am today. He pushed me to constantly improve and to be better, while supporting me through all the ups and downs. I couldn’t have asked for more supportive and passionate parents. My whole family has been amazing throughout and I wouldn’t be the player I am today without those backyard hockey games with my five siblings.
What is it like knowing that you are one of Wamuran’s biggest exports?
I just think it’s exciting and it makes me extra proud to know that I started from such a small town and now I have ended up in London. To be honest I actually wear my Wam socks underneath my Australian socks during every international match just to bring away that little piece of home.