Belinda, a 100/200m backstroke swimmer, started swimming to help develop her lungs and aid a severe asthma condition. At 15 she was awarded a scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport, and instantly fell in love with the sport. She loves life in and out of the pool, and encourages anyone interested in swimming to "go for it".
What does a swimmer do?
Swimming at a competitive or championship level is a true accomplishment, but it’s important to have a hobby or interest outside of the sport. Belinda spends her spare time studying a public relations and events degree at university, and gaining hands-on experience at the Victorian Institute of Sport.
Why did you decide to become a swimmer?
Belinda started swimming after suffering from a severe asthma condition as a child. Doctors told her parents that it would be best for her to swim to help to develop her lungs. From there, the rest is history. It was something she loved so she just progressed through the junior squad levels and never stopped.
How did you become a swimmer?
Although Belinda became a swimmer through swimming as a child, she admits that the real reason came from "love of the sport". She says that as a child you tend to do things that you’re good at, and swimming was a thing she definitely enjoyed.
"I just went through the different levels; started off at the Benalla swimming club for a couple of years and then went to another club for four years before I got a scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport at 15 – that’s probably when I decided to give swimming a good go."
What do you like best about your job?
Swimming has many different qualities and levels of enjoyment, but for Belinda it’s something outside the pool that takes her fancy. The interstate and overseas travel and the experiences she shares are what she enjoys most as a swimmer.
What would you say is the hardest part of your job?
"Probably some of the sacrifices you have to make are quite hard," Belinda says. "I didn’t get to go to my Year 10 formal, my Year 12 formal or my Year 12 graduation because I wasn’t there. I think you miss out on a lot of things when you’re younger, but I tend to look back at them, and not look at them as regrets, but as sacrifices I just had to make to be where I am today."
What does a typical day involve?
As an athlete no two days are ever the same for Belinda. She not only spends hours in the pool, but dedicates her spare time to studying and uni work. Before our interview she had already been awake and training for two hours and had also hit the gym. Here’s a brief run-down of a day in the life of swimmer Belinda Hocking.
- 5.15am: Wake and head off to training
- 6 – 8am: Training in the pool followed by gym work until roughly 9am
- 9.30am – 10.30am: Appointment with a physiotherapist to prevent injury and muscle damage
- 10.30am – 12pm: Come home and study for uni and other activities at home
- 12 – 3pm: Free time
- 3 – 6pm: Back at the pool for further training
What skills do you need to be a swimmer, and that you feel are important as a 100m/200m (backstroke) swimmer?
There are many skills involved in being a strong, competitive swimmer. While strength is an important part of any athlete’s skill set, particularly a swimmer, Belinda concedes that having the right gym program and training regime is the key to success in the pool.
"Strength is a big component. I think having the right guidance with your gym program is very important. It’s not good just to go in and throw weights around - you should be being trained by a professional. And, I think flexibility is also a big one. We do a lot of stretching and theraband work to stretch our muscles."
What skills have you learned from being a swimmer?
Working and competing in the sport, and being in the public profile, teaches you a lot about public speaking, says Belinda. She says it also teaches you how to present yourself and how to develop your career to ensure a life outside of the sport.
"I’ve learnt a lot about public speaking, social media, the PR side of things. I think a lot of the things we do as athletes are probably not so normal, but you definitely get those experiences on how to talk to people and public speaking is probably a big one."
What advice would you have for anyone thinking about taking up swimming or becoming a swimmer at a competitive level?
For Belinda the approach is quite simple. "Just go for it," she says. "I think your biggest regrets will be those that you don’t actually take. I think jump into something if you love it, and do everything you can to achieve that goal, because you don’t want to look back and think you didn’t do it."
"Swimming is the one sport that everyone can do - no matter their disability or strength level or physique or anything like that, so give it a go. It’s a great sport, I love it."
Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).