Christian: Today I’m joined by Louise Dobson. Louise is an Olympic Champion, 1996, representing the Hockeyroos, the Australian field hockey team. Her further achievements, a three-time Champions Trophy Champion, and Commonwealth Champion.
Louise: Thanks, Christian. Thank you so much for having me. It’s an absolute pleasure to be with you this afternoon. I look forward to spending the next half hour or an hour or however long we want to talk for and catch up.
How she got into field hockey
Christian: You have an impressive track record as an athlete. How did it all start?
Louise: Thank you. To be totally honest, for me, the vision of being an Olympian really started when I was the age of eight. I can actually distinctly remember sitting on my parents’ lounge room floor, watching the Moscow Olympics in 1980. It shows my age doesn’t it?
The vision of being an Olympian really started when I was the age of eight.
I can distinctly remember sitting there having breakfast and watching a medal presentation and I told myself that I wanted to do that someday. I imagined what it would be like to be on the Olympic podium. That’s what I wanted to do.
It was really ignorance on fire. A child very much speaks from their heart and that’s exactly what I did. For me, that was really the time where the dream of being an Olympian was a realization for me. I really just continued from that point on.
I loved my sport. I grew up in a sporting family, the youngest of three girls. My parents are very sporty as well.
My mum played hockey. My two sisters played hockey and I also have my sister, Christine, who’s six years older than me who’s also an Olympian. I’ll talk a bit more about her later.
I was very lucky to have her to really set that path for me and to give me that visibility and that vision of what it was going to take if I did want to go down this path. It was quite a young age, I suppose.
When I look at my son now, he’s seven and I’m thinking, what sport is he going to take? What is he going to resonate with? We’ve tried a few things. So, maybe he’s getting to the point now where he may too decide maybe not to be an Olympian but will start to get a real passion for something that I did at that age.
Christian: You said you have four children, isn’t it?
Louise: Yes, I have four children. I have three stepchildren and I have my little one who’s seven. They range from 22, 20, 15, and seven years old., so it’s not quite a hockey team, but I can put a basketball team on the court, that’s for sure.
Life is really interesting and it sounds a bit cheesy, but you talk about the circle of life and what happens. I know we’re going off track here a little bit, but life as an athlete, you are a very selfish individual and I think you have to be. It is all about you.
It’s about performance and the level that you set yourself at. Then as you would know, take that retirement, then transition, that time to settle into life after sport, back into the community, and then to have a family and you’re everything to them.
Life is really interesting, as an athlete, you are a very selfish individual and I think you have to be. Then as you settle into life after sport, and then to have a family and you’re everything to them.
Life does really change, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I absolutely loved all my highs and lows in sport. At the time, you don’t think you do, but it’s what you come at the backend of and you learn so much from this sport as well, that I’m truly grateful for.
Her darkest moment
Christian: In your athletic life, what was your darkest moment?
Louise: I have to say missing the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. When it was announced in 1993 that we would have the Sydney Olympics in Australia in 2000, I hadn’t even played my first game for Australia. My parents had booked their accommodation for Sydney as soon as it was announced.
I kind of felt the pressure. I was fortunate enough to be part of the team four years’ prior at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics. We won gold there, but then working towards this at-home Olympics was something that was so unique in any athletes’ life to be part of a home Olympic Games, and then I got so close.
I was in that final squad. We train and we have 24 in an Olympic squad, and that gets cut to sixteen. We live together, we train full time over in Perth, in Western Australia, and pretty much traveled the world for that six months leading up to the Olympic Games.
It gets cut to 20, and I was still in that group because I had been playing very well. I did have some injuries a couple of weeks leading out to the Olympic Games. I can still remember, back in those days, we had to actually ring into Hockey Australia. We had to ring Head Office to speak to somebody there to tell them your name and ask if you’re on the Olympic team.
I can still remember making that phone call and just that silence and then hearing an apology as I was told that I was not in the group to Sydney. That was a really telling moment. It was just like all the years of work that had gone into what had been happening.
Back in those days, we had to actually ring into Hockey Australia and ask if you’re on the Olympic team. I can still remember making that phone call and just that silence and then hearing an apology as I was told that I was not in the group to Sydney.
I thought of my family straight away. For the last seven years they’ve had this in their diary to be in Sydney and to be part of this journey with me and how do I tell them? That was probably really one of the toughest things that I’ve been through.
I was fortunate enough that I was able to play in Atlanta four years prior, so I did have the taste of competing at the Olympic Games and then achieving the ultimate in Olympic gold medal. I was very grateful for that.
However, I did have teammates who had watched two Olympic Games go by, but not only two Olympic games, two Olympic gold medals, that they had just missed. So as much as that is my darkest point, I still have to do a path to be very grateful for the opportunity that I had four years prior.
Christian: From my research, I saw that you played the Champions Trophy in 2000, which was in May/June and the Olympics were in September, so 4 months out of the Olympics you were still on the team?
Louise: Yes, that’s correct. Christian, we were the number one team in the world. So the Hockeyroos had Ric Charlesworth, who was probably Australia’s best hockey player. He took on the coaching role for the Hockeyroos after the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games.
Australia was actually ranked number one at the Olympic Games in Barcelona. A lot of them, unfortunately, got sick in the athletic village. A lot of athletes got sick and Australia finished fifth. That was a disappointing time for them.
Ric Charlesworth actually took over the reins after Barcelona and then he took over the reins right through to the 2000. So from 1994 to 2000, we were the number one ranked team in the world, which was incredible to have a brand new coach come in.
He just had so many changes to systems that we played, to players that may have slipped through the net in regards to selections with the previous coach, he went back and a lot of those players came in. He just had a very incredible way of, I suppose, assessing what he needed in the team and the dynamics that he needed and how he really changed hockey in Australia during that time.
But we saw the team just get better and better. From 1996 to 2000, as an athlete, I wondered how the team could get any better. But we got so much better during those four years during that time.
It’s great being part of the best team in the world, but one of the hardest things is when you come to something like my situation in 2000 at the Olympic Games where I missed that selection. I know myself and the next four girls that missed it, we would have been in the starting lineup for the number two team in the world. We had built so much depth particularly the last four years between the two Olympics.
From 1994 to 2000, we were the number one ranked team in the world. It’s great being part of the best team in the world, but one of the hardest things is when you come to something like my situation in 2000 at the Olympic Games where I missed that selection. I know myself and the next four girls that missed it, we would have been in the starting lineup for the number two team in the world.
It was just the last, probably two spots in our team. I don’t think we were going to make a huge amount of difference to the outcome of the group, because we had so much depth and so much talent in that team, which as a coach and a team you want. It’s just really difficult when you’re the one.
Even two or three days out from the Olympic Games, I was still getting calls from Ric Charlesworth telling me that he needs me to be training. I had an injury at the time, so that’s really tough because mentally, you’re disappointed, but you have to stay very focused and very diligent with the preparation for yourself, but also for the team as well.
I got to play in 2000 and like most of those players, I think there are only two players from the team that played in Sydney that did not miss a major tournament in the four years leading up to the Olympic Games. Now that shows you that the strength and the depth of that group.
However, it also shows you the character of the coach in regards to Ric Charlesworth where he never let any player get ahead of themselves in regards to their talent and form. He very much kept an even keel, so to speak, amongst the team, where nobody got ahead of themselves.
He got rid of captains, vice-captains, and have more of a leadership group so that there was nobody was granted any ticket to the Olympic Games. It’s just the way he was. So yes, it was just unfortunate for me that it fell that way, and that there was more flexibility in the team with somebody else than myself, but that’s sport, isn’t it?
How she returned to the Olympic Squad after missing the 2000 Olympic Games
Christian: You returned to the team after missing the 2000 Olympics, and you competed at the Athens 2004 Olympics, right?
Louise: Yes, I did. I came out of the Olympics after in 2000 and I took a bit of time to really work out what I was going to do. I had just turned 28 and in my mind, I had this idea that you should be retiring around that age.
The average age of the team was about 25 and it’s probably getting a bit old. It wasn’t until 2001, we had a lot of changes. After 2000, we had 11 out of 16 players from the Sydney Olympics retire. It was the best form the team was, but after that, there were a lot of players that retired.
They’d been to three/four Olympic Games and there was a huge changeover, so new coaching staff. Obviously, the new coaches that came in that wanted to map their own stance on how they wanted the team to play the systems.
There were a lot of new players being exposed and playing their first international games for Australia as well. So it took me a little while to really work out what I wanted to do.
I then made the decision probably about 12 months after the Olympic Games that I did want to go again. I did want to have another goal of winning an Olympic gold medal again.
I knew that this time I had to make sure that I wasn’t going to be number 13, 14, 15, or 16 on that selection list. I was going to be number one, number two, number three, that they selected on that list. I came home and really reflected on how I could get better.
I did want to have another goal of winning an Olympic gold medal again. I knew that this time I had to make sure that I wasn’t going to be number 13, 14, 15, or 16 on that selection list. I was going to be number one, number two, number three, that they selected on that list.
What could I be doing differently to make sure that I was a really significant part of that team? I was able to do that. The new coach had a very much leadership role, so I was vice-captain for the team for the next four years, which was great.
I can remember also when you have new people that come into your group, being really invigorated by the younger players. Sometimes the older players can be quite intimidated from when the younger ones come into the group, but I actually think it’s like putting an old dog with a new puppy dog, isn’t it?
Sometimes it gives the old dog a bit of life and that was happening a little bit too, which I thoroughly enjoyed, to have the chance of mentoring some of these girls to come in who was part of our team and then ongoing from then after I retired. I absolutely loved and had to really get pretty honest with myself and just move on.
We all go through these sorts of things, but you have to make a point of either putting a line in the sand and moving forward, or you’re just going to get stuck in a lot of the crap that you let your head stay in. So I made a really conscious decision for myself.
Also, how could I help embrace the new group and what could I give to some of these players, as well as really pushing myself to mentally stay in the game as well for another four years? I actually really enjoyed it.
I love the challenges that came with all of that for myself, from being a leader, as part of our core leadership group, and really embracing a lot of these younger players, and helping them to get exposed to that world stage as well. And yes, just my game went to a whole new level.
You have to make a point of either putting a line in the sand and moving forward, or you’re just going to get stuck in a lot of the crap that you let your head stay in. So I made a really conscious decision for myself.
I was really fortunate enough to pick up some great awards, play some great hockey in the next 12 to 18 months where I was named The National Player of the Year, and also The International Player of the Year. You don’t set yourself on those awards, but you set yourself the challenges. I was just fortunate enough that some of those things came up as well. For me, that was a very pleasing thing to do.
The main challenges when mentoring young athletes
Christian: And talking about the leadership, you have continued with that, right? You are mentoring athletes at this moment in time or in the last years, you have to mentor athletes? What are the main challenges of young athletes when you mentor them?
Louise: Yes, I’ve been really fortunate to mentor some of the junior youth Olympians. Here in Australia, we do have a great program where the Olympians do stay in touch.
The Australian Committee, ask athletes if they would like to mentor some of the younger athletes coming through and some of the junior youth Olympians, which has been great. I’ve also been mentoring a walker here in Australia for the last eight months.
It was in the lead up to Tokyo, but obviously, that’s been put on hold now. I’m never going to interfere with someone’s sport, but you can only try and give your own personal view on your situation.
I never liked to mentor athletes in the same sport because I think that’s sometimes a bit too close, but I think there’s a lot of things that we can share in regards to our experiences, both good and bad from our sports, from a more general setting, as opposed to necessarily mentoring another Hockeyroo that might be coming through.
I love that. I really enjoy doing that. I love having the chance to go out. We have here at the Australian Olympic Committee have a program called Olympics Unleashed, and that is all about going into schools and helping children to unleash their own potential.
We talk about goal setting and I tell my story about being their age. Having this dream is just a key growing up in country Australia, really. I was nowhere around world-class hockey facilities. I grew up on a farm and I had horses and went to pony club and did all those fun things.
The Australian Olympic Committee has a program called Olympics Unleashed, and that is all about going into schools and helping children to unleash their own potential. We talk about goal setting and I tell my story about being their age and having this dream.
That was a very sporting family. It’s great to be able to go back and relate to the kids and to share the medals with them and just teach them the importance of vision and having a vision board. You can do that kind of thing at school and setting goals and saying, thank you to your parents.
I really do love going back in now and mentoring, whether it’s the kids at school or whether it is athletes. I absolutely love that. And that’s something that I feel I can give back.
Answering your question on challenges the younger athletes have. One of the challenges for everyone these days is social media, and I don’t know if I would want to be playing right now with social media. I think social media is such a challenge. That’s a really difficult one in itself and because people can engage so much more in your life as well.
That’s a bit of a challenge for athletes generally, not just mentoring. But people can get persuaded by things through social media. We can tap into things that used to be just the newspaper and put it down and you wouldn’t read it when you were training, whereas now, kids, because of social media, there’s no break for athletes or there’s no break for children because of social media.
So that’s just generally a real challenge for people as well. I don’t think it’s a challenge. I prefer not to be involved with athletes that I’m mentoring from the same sport because I don’t want to give that biased opinion on what I feel about that. But there are more benefits than challenges to be totally honest.
I haven’t found too many challenges with the athletes that I’ve been mentoring. The hard thing is that you can give advice, but sometimes you have to let the athlete actually physically feel the outcome of the decision they are taking, and what they may go through.
The hard thing is that you can give advice, but sometimes you have to let the athlete actually physically feel the outcome of the decision they are taking, and what they may go through.
So I can give them advice on what they can expect might happen and I think sometimes that’s the difficult thing. You actually have to feel it and you have to go through that to really understand what it’s about. Sometimes it is missing out on something or it is being so close to having that medal or just missing that final by point second of a second.
It’s so hard when you can sit back. It’s like parents telling you that they told you that this would happen. You can sit back after so many years of being in your sport and you’re trying to help somebody through those earliest stages. It’s sometimes very hard for them to understand what you’re truly saying because they haven’t had that chance to really experience either.
Christian: I have a theory on that one because I’ve been fortunate to work with athletes who have really achieved and overachieved. I think the ones that overachieve, if they get the advice they lean in, listen and they take it in.
Whilst the others, they probably say that it cannot happen to them and then they have to feel the outcome. So I really believe that this quality of highest performers they lean in and say that since the coach has experienced that, they want to know how they can use it for themselves so that they don’t make the same mistake.
Louise: A great saying for that is “feel the courage, not the fear” as you say, lean in and just have courage as opposed to having fear. There’s so much we can miss out on because of just having that fear.
A great saying for that is “feel the courage, not the fear”, lean in and just have courage as opposed to having fear. There’s so much we can miss out on because of just having that fear.
I think when your back is to the wall, as you said exactly, that’s the time to really lean into the people around you to the people that are mentoring you and just the people close to you as well.
Her best moment
Christian: What was your best moment?
Louise: Well, let’s talk about that. That’s always good.
Christian: I want to make you feel good.
Louise: I like to get the bad one out of the way first. Absolutely, there’s a couple actually, and they lay within a 12 to 18-month period. I remember when I got asked to go on the pre-Olympic tournament in 1995.
Hockey Australia rang me and told me that Ric Charlesworth had chosen me to go on the pre-Olympic tournament. I told them, yes, but I wasn’t even in the Australian squad at that time.
This was something that he was very good at. He did not discourage from picking talent outside of his squad to take on trips and expose them, which I think has been one of the forefronts of his success over the years.
For me, getting selected to go on that trip was incredible. I just remember one of the players from my state who was on that trip telling me that I have got absolutely nothing to lose. She reminded me that I was not even in the squad, so I could not muck up, but that I had absolutely everything to gain.
I just remember her saying that to me, I thought that it was so true. There were people there with so much experience, 12 months out from the Olympics, they’d be cautious because that’s what happens. So that was the first crack to come in to the squad and actually be exposed.
Then another good moment was obviously, being part of that team. Additionally, being able to ring that Hockey Australia, Head Office, and actually be congratulated and told that I am going to be at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, and being part of that team where we won the Olympic gold medal was incredible.
To be at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, and being part of that team where we won the Olympic gold medal was incredible.
It had just been such a hard 12 months leading up to that with South Korea who were very strong competitors. The Dutch are always very strong; the Germans are always very strong and then when you get to the Olympic Games, you don’t take anything for granted when you’re playing against the top nine teams in the world.
Playing South Korea was always so hard because one Summer Olympics, it’s always hot as you know wherever you go. The Koreans play a very fast pace of hockey as we do. It’s a very attacking game, whereas a lot of the European teams tend to be a bit more defensive, and then we’ll have these counterattacks.
It was always a very fast game with Korea. We actually just got away with a draw with them in our round game, within the last 30 seconds. To actually get a draw was great and then how the tables worked was the top two in the pool actually played through for the Olympic Games gold medal.
It was against South Korea again and winning that game was such a tight game. The whole game was a really tight game as every game always is against them. I can just remember seeing the waves of green and gold in the crowd because we had so many athletes that came out from the village to watch us, which was incredible.
Then finally, all my time in the squad, our coach, Ric Charlesworth, would never let us think about winning a gold medal. It was always that that was the act and that was what we wanted. However, we would peg it right back and then break it down. We would never look at that visibility too far out.
All my time in the squad, our coach, Ric Charlesworth, would never let us think about winning a gold medal.
But to hear that siren go to know that we were the World Champions and we had that Olympic gold medal and having the chance to stand on that Dias with your team was something just totally incredible. It took me straight back to being eight and having that dream 16 years prior to one day being able to do that. I was able to live that childhood dream out with 15 of my closest mates it was just the best thing that I’ve ever done.
Her advice to a younger Louise Dobson
Christian: If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to a younger Lou Dobson?
Louise: Wow, where would I start? I have to say, in case there’s some parents there that might be pulling their hair out with kids with bad diets. I had a terrible diet when I was a child.
The first thing I would say to myself is just be healthy. Learn from as young as you can, that when you start to have these passions in life, particularly with sport, is the importance of nutrition and fuel for your body. It is making sure that I do have a really good diet.
The first thing I would say to myself is just be healthy. When you have these passions in life, particularly with sport, it is making sure that I do have a really good diet.
I wish I would have done that earlier as well. I think in regards to sport, like you said it before Christian, just leaning in. Try not to let the fear hold you back because I think that happens so much as well. At the end of the day, we’re all going to be okay.
It’s when we don’t take that shot; it’s the unknown. We can step up and I’m a penalty corner hitter, so you can go and practice all those shots.
However, you have to go and practice hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of shots when no one’s watching; when no one’s there; when it’s raining; when you don’t feel like it to be able to step up and take that shot at that time.
I think getting out and doing the training, having the consistency, when you don’t feel like doing it, pushing yourself to do that, when you don’t feel like doing it is so important because that’ll create habit.
Getting out and doing the training, having the consistency, pushing yourself to do that, when you don’t feel like doing it is so important because that’ll create habit.
Our trainings were harder than games. Our games were tough, but our trainings were so hard that by the time we got to a game, it was actually quite okay. We knew what we were doing.
We were ready to take an impact. We were ready to take anything on as well. Also, the other one was just, when I think about living out the back end of sport now, don’t underestimate what you can take from sport into the rest of your life.
I was truly so grateful for my coach, Ric Charlesworth, who took me to the absolute highest and the lowest point in my life with the sport. But I’m so grateful for so many of those lessons that I’ve learned now.
I am grateful for the person that I’ve become back into the community as a parent and as a mother and just what I do now in the community. I suppose the level that I operate at is very much from what I learned through sport.
Her success habits
Christian: What are the habits that make you a successful athlete and or person?
Louise: I like to be organized. Athletes are very obsessive-compulsive sometimes. We like things to be a certain way and that’s very much, by the way, we’re used to structuring of what we’ve done, but I think it’s important to be organized.
You want to know what’s happening. I’ve got the diary out and I like to have visibility of what’s happening in my life as well. I like to make sure that I get up early in the mornings and I set myself something that I want to achieve early in the day. That’s really important.
I still like to chunk times out. I want to work hard, but I also want to have that balance where I can have time with my kids and family as well. It’s just one of those things. I obviously don’t play elite sport anymore, but just staying active and staying healthy is so important, just not only for your body but for your mind.
That’s so important as well. I don’t know about you, but when we’ve done this for so much of life, it’s very hard to give up and that takes time. When I retired, it really played with my mind for quite a while that it was okay that I wasn’t going to the gym six days a week.
That takes time to get used to that adjustment as well. But I feel it’s important to be around like-minded people that are quite driven. We are in the top 2 or 3% of the community because of what we’ve done. We are high achievers, so you still need to feed that fuel.
It’s important to be around like-minded people that are quite driven. We are high achievers, so you still need to feed that fuel.
You still need to be able to feed that to yourself. They say you become the average of the five people you spend most of your time with and I say to people and I say to kids, and I say to teenagers especially, who are you hanging around with?
Are you really being true to your heart with the people that you’re with? To be the best you can be, you need to have a look at the people that you surround yourself with as well.
That’s really important in regards to just life, whether that’s in business, it’s all facets of life and those people will differ, but you need to make sure that you’re aligning yourself in the right areas for what you need as well.
Christian: I can’t agree more with that, but everyone who says that here, I challenged that person. Of course, you are the average of the people you hang out with, but sometimes you have people in your network that are probably not high achievers and not driven.
Sometimes it can be family. Following the logic of people bringing you up, people can also bring you down. What do you do?
Louise: One of our biggest challenges is being able to just adjust to that. I don’t know about over in Holland, but I know here in Australia, athletes really struggle with that whole transition of getting out of the bubble of being an athlete and coming back into the community because it is so unique in what we do.
Everybody has a greater good about them. Everybody brings great things to the table. It’s just understanding what it is that you can offer to somebody. It’s like a team.
You don’t want everybody to be the same because that’s not going to make the best team. You want people to bring different strengths and weaknesses to that group. Yes, there are going to be people around us that aren’t driven.
You don’t want everybody to be the same because that’s not going to make the best team. You want people to bring different strengths and weaknesses to that group.
It’s very hard in that as a parent, I’ve watched my kids and I’m thinking that I don’t want them doing something, but you have to lead by example. My theory is if I can help bring people up a bit more than where they want to be, and their benchmark becomes slightly higher than where they currently operate, then I hope that that’s a good thing for them as well.
That’s where I don’t get frustrated with people like that. I just try and use it as a way that maybe I can help them to set a slightly higher benchmark for themselves day to day, by something that I can help influence on them as well.
Christian: That’s a very good answer. That makes a lot of sense.
The secret of the Hockeyroos, the team that won 3 out of 4 Olympic Games
Christian: The Hockeyroos, the Australian Women’s national field hockey team were the dominant team for one and a half decades, winning three out of four Olympics. You were part of that team for some time. What do you think made it special?
Louise: It’s interesting that people say Ric Charlesworth was an incredible coach and don’t get me wrong, he was an incredible coach. He was one of Australia’s best hockey players – well probably one of the world’s best hockey players back in the seventies and eighties.
However, if you’ve got a great group of players, that makes a coach’s job a lot easier as well. The group that Ric really took on from 1993, we won the Junior World Cup in 1993. He came in in 1993 and then took this team over the next ten years, basically the next seven years to be number one in the world.
If you’ve got a great group of players, that makes a coach’s job a lot easier.
I would say having the depth, he certainly had a great caliber of players that he was working with. As I said before, he went back and he handpicked players that had missed selection probably the 18 months/two years prior to him coming in.
I’ll give you an example. Nova Peris, who was Australia’s first Aboriginal to win Olympic gold medal, played in our team. Nova is about 14 to 18 months older than me. She didn’t make the Olympic Games in 1992, but Ric went back and actually selected her into the group once he became a coach and saw something in Nova.
I’m just using Nova as an example because again, there were a few other players like that as well. Nova probably wasn’t the most naturally gifted hockey player, but she was one of the fastest athletes that you had known. She actually went on to become part of the Australian athletics team at the Sydney Olympic Games.
Four years after winning the Olympic gold medal in 1996, she retired. She was at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in the track and field team for Australia and went on as a track and field athlete in the Sydney Olympics. That is incredible.
What I’m saying is Ric’s ability to be able to see something in individuals was something that Australia hadn’t seen in hockey before. His ability to bring something different to the table created so much depth amongst the group as well.
He then really created different systems in hockey of how we would actually play, so he created a very fast, aggressive game as well. We also had rule changes that happened. The interchange rule had been taken out.
That had allowed him to have a lot more flexibility. You have sixteen players and eleven on the field at once. You could actually rotate the players a lot more. Back in the days of the bench players, who probably weren’t quite to the level of the first eleven.
That completely changed because he made sure that every one of those 15 players that were on the field was just as good as each other. There was no gap in the group. When we go on to play a game, an international game, let’s say, Argentina, I can remember this vividly.
It was always a really tough clash against Argentina. We would rotate our players through our midfield, every seven and a half minutes. It’d be an even keel – an even battle for the first seven minutes or so, but we’d make that next substitution, and fresh legs come on.
It was the same level of skill for these people. You could just slowly start to break some of these teams because we just had this way of just rolling progression of interchange with players that just allowed us to slowly break them and really then just counteract that attack from then on.
The way in which we played hockey, the systems that we played, the depth of the players in that group as well, and, things like the ability of players too. In 1996, we had some of the best midfielders, then become some of the best defenders four years later at the Sydney Olympic Games.
The way in which we played hockey, the systems that we played, the depth of the players in that group, and the ability of players.
His ability not only to bring players in to identify talent that was outside the group but then to take a striker to make them a great defensive player, that ability for change within the group was pretty incredible as well. There were lots of different facets, but they were, as I said, we had just a great group during that time as well.
Also, 1996 was the first time we actually went full-time training. Now a lot of people really criticized Ric for doing that at the time, because it had never been done before. They felt it was a huge risk to be doing it in the Olympic year, but history shows that it was probably the best thing that we did.
We were living off the smell of an oily rag, as we would say here in Australia. It certainly wasn’t a money-making experience for the athletes, but to be able to train full time, seven months out from your Olympic Games was the best preparation we could have had.
Having a full-time program really allowed us to spend thirty hours a week together training. It was just so much more time together to probably take things to that next level as well.
It was the first time we actually went full-time training. A lot of people really criticized Ric for doing that at the time, because it had never been done before.
Christian: Did it mean you had to leave your club in order to play for the national team?
Louise: Yes, that’s right. We all had to pick everything up and move to Western Australia, which is on the other side of Australia. Predominantly everything was on the East Coast of Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport for Hockey is based over in Perth.
We had to move across to Perth and take our vehicles and everything and pack our bags and go, and we were based there. We had to find our own accommodation and we were based there for the Olympics in July/August, and based there for the seven months leading up.
We got there early January and training full time. It was training pretty much five days a week. We were then drafted to a club hockey team over in Perth, so not our usual club team.
You play club hockey on the weekend, which again, was just as hard because he’d come and watch every game and he’d tell you that you’re the best player on the team. He would also tell you that if he sees anyone hiding, they were to look out.
So it was tough. It was six days of just solid work for the seven months leading into the Olympic Games.
Christian: I would imagine because the clubs normally pay the salaries of the players, wasn’t there resistance from the clubs to that course of action?
Louise: No, back then it was amateur for us. It’s quite different now. I know a lot of our places to go across to Europe and they would be paid for playing over there. It’s really interesting. I think now you’ve got players associations and clubs paying money and all this stuff.
Yes, you just got a whole different dynamic, which sometimes can create confusion and fragmentation amongst players and coaching staff as well. I’m quite happy. No real social media back then.
We were completely amateur. There was no money to worry about. What you got was raw talent and pure passion, mixed all in one with no real distractions in between. Hey, we didn’t have a lot, so we didn’t need too much money to go out.
Her morning routine
Christian: Do you have a morning routine?
Louise: I try to nowadays. As I said, with a busy family, there’s seven of us here at home, and my mother-in-law lives with us as well. As I said, I always like to be a step ahead.
I’ve always been like that and that’s something that’s come from sport, like what’s coming next or training and all that thing. I like the visibility of what the next three or four months might look like.
I always like to be a step ahead. I’ve always been like that.
For me, I always love to try and get up early. I was never up early as a kid. I look at my teenage kids now, you can never get them out of bed. For me, I feel like that’s my peacetime to get up to either do my exercise, or I do spend some time doing some work in the mornings as well.
I feel if I can get an hour or so done before they get up in the morning, then I feel like I’ve achieved quite a bit myself. It’s a bit of a personal achievement. Then getting the kids off to school was always pretty busy.
In the mornings, I love to then get straight into game mode, in regards to my work, like really be intentional with what I want to do for the first part of the day. I try and get my exercise out of the way, first thing in the morning or work, and then really jump into being very intentional for the morning. I find that’s my time.
People say they find certain times where they feel more creative. I’m certainly not creative, but they feel different times throughout the day where they just operate better. For me, I just love to get in and make it happen as early as I can in the day.
Really, from then on, anything’s more of a bonus, and probably like you with kids, it’s crazy after school. You’re running them here and there and everywhere else.
I like Fridays. Friday, there’s no structure. I’m very much a structured person from sport and I think you have to be when you’ve got a big family now, but I like the flow of Friday when whatever happens, happens.
There’s no real set structure in the house, but I do like to certainly have that time for myself in the morning because I feel that that’s time without anybody. I can just set myself for what I want to achieve for the day or the rest of the week as well.
How to prepare for important moments
Christian: How do you prepare for important moments?
Louise: Being organized. Never be late. I hate lateness and I learned that actually from my sister, Christine, who is six years older than me. She always said to me, “Never be late to a game because you don’t want to get to a game and then feel stressed because you’ve been busy trying to drive through traffic and all kinds of things.”
I never liked to be late wherever I’m going. Do your homework. You don’t have to know everything, but you need to understand what it is, whether that’s something that you’re going to speak about, whether it’s someone you’re meeting with you.
Be organized. Never be late. Do your homework.
You want to do some research on people as well, so you got that visibility and you are proactive. You’re not being reactive as well. I always say, “Lead the moment as opposed to moving with the moment.”
You want to be leading that moment forward as opposed to being pulled through it. I always like to be organized and be a step ahead if you can. Not everything’s going to go to plan. I understand that that will happen and that’s okay and don’t get jolted by that either, but preparation I think is key, definitely for me.
What makes a good penalty striker
Christian: The olympics.com.au states, you were a feared penalty striker. What makes a good penalty striker because that’s really where you have to be prepared for important moments? You can see with penalties especially, some people rise to the occasion and others don’t.
Louise: Yes, exactly. So much of that starts from the moment that the penalty corner is won. As soon as that whistle goes, that’s your preparation.
I played as a defender, so I used to have a good, probably 40 meters walk up to the penalty corner shot, so a lot of thinking time, and that can be good and that can be bad. We talk about preparation. Part of that is having preset things in your preparation.
I certainly had certain things that I would just focus on, whether that was my breathing, whether it might’ve just been things like touching my stick a certain way, looking at my coach, saying what the signal was going to be for what that was. But I think key preparation and again, that’s probably why it’s such a big part of me is just keep it simple.
Don’t think too much about it. Feel your way through it. You know those trigger points. But also too in preparation, as I said earlier, it’s the countless hours of training yourself. You can slightly turn your hockey stick like a golf stick and it can give you a completely different feel of where the ball may go.
I know this sounds a bit weird, but getting to know the touch of what you need to strike the ball properly for it to hit the sweet spot to visualize as well. I never used to let people distract me. I knew what I was doing. I knew the job that I had to do.
It’s the countless hours of training yourself. I knew what I was doing. I knew the job that I had to do.
I just had to focus on the person that was pushing that ball out and the person that was stopping the ball for me and just execute that plan that I’ve spent so many times out training with not only my girls, or my teammates, but just so many times on my own.
As I said, slightly altering how I may hold the stick, like how’s the ball going to come off that when we do that. You’ve got to learn to know the feeling. You got to feel it to know that it’s right.
That just becomes like an IP in you where you just turn it on and that takes a lot of time. That’s what I say to people now when you’re learning a new skill, it’s not going to be here and you’re going to keep going up.
You’re going to go down before you go up and that’s really risky, particularly in something like what we did with sport, where you’ve got selection happening all the time. You don’t want to do that.
People would say that they don’t want to try something new because they know they’re going to have to go backward. However, as you said before, you’ve got to be prepared to lean in and take those risks to step back a little bit, to get the gain from that as well. A lot of that happened for me, just over my period of playing as well, where you just change things, but you’ve got to trust yourself.
That’s just a phase that you’re going through to get to the point where you can execute, as you say, in those final Olympic finals or those key times where you have to put the ball in the back of the net. But you’ve done the work over and over and over to know that you’re capable of doing it and the minute percentage that it takes to either make it happen or not make it happen.
How to overcome setbacks
Christian: How do you overcome setbacks?
Louise: It’s two roads you can take, isn’t it? You can either shut the door and feel sorry for yourself and blame others. It’s always very easy to blame others. Or you can look at, I suppose, like what I did in regards to the 2000 Olympics.
Certainly, a setback to start with and did I blame others? Maybe. It’s the first thing you can do or you feel like you’re doing, but just being honest with yourself. For me, it’s like, what could have I done better? What was good, but what could have I done better? How could I have made changes?
I’d love to have met an athlete who has never had a setback, but the setbacks are what makes you; it’s all about the recovery. How quick someone recovers, how they recover from the setback, I think is what makes the talent of the athlete, but not only the athlete, of the person afterward as well.
You can sit and you can miss Olympic Games or miss something, it can mess with your head for the rest of your life. Life’s too short to let something like that affect you for that long, but it’s so important how you choose to recover and the recovery I’m so adamant about is what makes the person in themselves, in whatever that situation is that they’ve been through.
It’s all about the recovery. It’s so important how you choose to recover.
Christian: Yes. That reminds me of Pat Cash, who actually said the same to me in our interview, ‘Iron is tempered in the fire.’ You have to go through that and that is something that he lives by.
Louise: It’s a bit like what we were talking about before when you’re trying to mentor people and athletes. You really have to let people feel the pain to then give them the road to find out where they want to go. It’s their choice.
Where you want to go and what you want to do next is totally your choice, but you need to be prepared to live with what might come with that too.
Where you want to go and what you want to do next is totally your choice, but you need to be prepared to live with what might come with that too.
Her role model
Christian: Who’s your role model and why?
Louise: I always loved Andre Agassi. I loved watching tennis. I played tennis as a junior, not to a great level, but summer sport was always tennis and softball and winter was hockey.
I had horses until hockey became the prominent sport and the horses got very fat and they had to go. So I always loved tennis. I always loved watching Andre Agassi. I liked him just for his.
He was always a bit of a bad boy and a bit of a rebel. People wanted to bring him down, but he always had a way of coming back. His dad from a young age, obviously really pushed him.
He went through a lot with his father from a very young age and you always had the odds against him. That’s what I really enjoyed, understanding and reading his books to hear about how he grew up and what that was all about.
But then, even as an athlete, he was a bit like the bad boy. He was a great player, but people wanted to bring him down for the long hair and the dress and what he was all about.
To see him now with Steffi Graf and that whole way in which they’ve gone and created this awesome, beautiful family, but I always loved watching him. He was an athlete that I truly loved to watch.
I think closer to my heart would definitely be my sister, Christine. As I said, she’s six years older than me and really pathed the way for me to expose to me what being an elite athlete was all about.
My sister Christine really pathed the way for me to expose to me what being an elite athlete was all about.
She took the path across to Perth on the other side of Australia to be part of the Australian Institute of Sport. She got herself into the Australian team. I’ve watched her go through some really tough times as well, where she was the first emergency for the Seoul Olympics in 1988, where they won Olympic gold medal, the Australian women’s hockey team.
That was a huge disappointment for her, not to be part of that team and then to work really hard to be in the team for 1992, where they were the world’s number one team. They, unfortunately, finished fifth, due to a lot of players being really ill during that two-week time.
I’m very grateful for having someone so close to me that lived that path out, that I can say that it made me understand what it was really going to take, both good and bad from a young age if I wanted to go down this path. Definitely, her and we’re all very close family.
I’ve got two gorgeous sisters and we’re also very close, but now, as a parent myself, I have to say, my mum and dad. We lived on a farm. Mum and dad used to drive me two and a half hours each direction to go to any decent state training for an Australian training twice a week.
Mum and dad had two businesses. They were running a farm as well and I never heard them ask me why I was doing this. They never asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this. They never questioned my dream to play hockey for Australia and they just supported us the whole way.
As a parent, I look back now wondering how they did all of it. Not only with me, but with my sister as well. I’m very, very grateful to them. So there are a few people that really stand out, but particularly those three groups of people, definitely.
Christian: I guess we all get a boost of respect for our parents the moment we become parents ourselves, isn’t it?
Louise: Absolutely. It’s good and they’ve been very lucky as well. They went to the Barcelona Olympics and watched my sister, they came to the Atlanta Olympic Games, so did my other sister Pauline, which was great to have family there. They actually still went to the Sydney Olympics.
They still went and they had a great time. I went for a couple of days, but one or two days is more than enough for me to go. They’ve seen a lot of the world and a lot of hockey as well, which has been great for them.
The best advice she has received
Christian: What is the best advice you received and who gave it to you?
Louise: This takes me back to growing up in a state here in Australia called Victoria. I grew up in country Victoria, and Christine, again, who is six years older than me, she was living in Melbourne and she’d gone across to Perth by the time I was moving to Melbourne. She had told me that I needed to make sure when I look at the club that I was going to play for in Melbourne, I needed to make sure I surround myself with the best players.
She told me to go and play with the club with the best players who play for Australia and play for Victoria. She said I was going to learn so much from being surrounded by those people and put myself in a position on the field where I’m surrounded by them. I still remember that.
Christine told me to go and play with the club with the best players. She said I was going to learn so much from being surrounded by those people.
I’ve always remembered the advice that she gave me. It was such great advice because when you put yourself around good people, you learn so much, you can be completely outside of your depth at the time.
For me, I learned where to pass the ball to, how to pass the ball as well, and how and where to receive the ball. I just learned so much about the game of hockey by surrounding myself with some of the best players in our state and in our country at that time.
For me, I was just a country girl coming out of this small country town who had never been exposed to the big city and playing on AstroTurf and playing at world-class hockey centers. To be out of my depth, I suppose, is probably a good thing to say.
Don’t be afraid to be out of your depth, but if you’re going to be out of your depth, have good people around you that you can learn from. That’s something that you can take into life. You might be going into a work environment or I don’t know, a passion of yours where you might feel you’re completely out of your depth.
Don’t be afraid to be out of your depth, but if you’re going to be out of your depth, have good people around you that you can learn from.
I would just say to people, make sure you’ve got great people around you that you can learn from, because if you have that, then you’re going to go through those ranks a lot quicker and learn so much more from being vulnerable. As you say before, lean in and just soak in what you can learn from those people around you.
A typical training day in the life of a Hockeyroo
Christian: Back in the days, how did a typical training day look like?
Louise: It was five days a week, full time. That was the first time we went full-time in 1996 and pre-season before we’d get over to Perth, it was a lot of running for us because it’s such a physical sport.
We’d do a lot of running. Weights and strength and conditioning has changed so much now. Christian you’re an expert in this space, but we used to do quite a lot of heavy weights when we were training as well.
But in Perth, I would say it would be skills training for two hours. When I say skills, we literally did not walk for two hours. Ric was constant in regards to just the demand on us.
It’d be a training session for two hours. It would be a lot of skills training. You jog back out to get your drink bottle, jog two laps of the hockey field while he sets up the next set of drills and then you keep training.
So the skill sessions were really tough. There were two-hour trainings. We had a lot of video analysis as well. Again, that was not physical, but obviously, just quite mentally challenging, particularly when you’re tired as well.
We used to do weights three times a week. We used to do yoga three times a week. Now yoga is such a normal mainstream thing to do these days, but again, like what I said before, when we went full time at the Olympics, no one had ever done yoga.
Everyone was wondering if the coach was crazy, to have the team not only training full time but to be doing yoga. Can I say, out of our squad of twenty-four people, we only had two serious muscle strains that year when we were training full time.
Everyone was wondering if the coach was crazy, to have the team not only training full time but to be doing yoga.
As much as we all complained about doing yoga at the time, it was one of the greatest things that we brought into the program during that time. We’d do yoga two to three times a week as well. It was a whole mix over those five days, but very, very solid.
You’d have those two-hour training sessions, pretty much on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You had those three times a week, but then, like I said before, I was a penalty corner hitter.
You’d also go out and you might be out on the pitch, just one-on-one with the coach for an hour, maybe two or three times a week as well, where it was just a specific skill that you’re working on with that coach, or maybe specific skill. I was a defender, so it would just be three or four of us working with our defensive coach on strategies on how do we get the ball out of the defensive area when this is happening and coming up with different situations to actually work on that.
I suppose we’d call that more set play work as well. It was a real mix across the board. We’d also play a club game on a Saturday, and Ric would come to every game to watch everybody. That was a chance to, I suppose, really be a key leader in those games.
He demanded the most from us in those games as well, but also a chance to try some of those things that we’ve been practicing throughout the week. Club games is still important, but it gave us the license to be able to certainly try some of those things that we might’ve just been learning as well.
As much as sometimes we wonder if we really have to play club hockey because we were exhausted. It was a platform for us to really play out some of those new skills that we were all utilizing as well.
Her interview nomination
Christian: Do you want to nominate someone to be interviewed?
Louise: I have got a couple of people actually that I was thinking about. Susie O’ Neill, who’s a very well-known Australian swimmer, she’s a three-time Olympian, a dual Olympic gold medalist. She won gold in 1996 in Atlanta when I did, and also finished on the Sydney Olympic Games with an Olympic gold medal.
She is known as ‘Madame Butterfly’ here in Australia, so she won everything. She’s a triple Olympian, she’s a mom and she’s got two beautiful children. Her husband’s a doctor. She now works in radio here in Australia. She was someone I thought it would be great to definitely speak to.
Then there is another lady called Michelle Griffith Robinson, who is a UK triple jumper. She again, also competed at the same Olympics, 1996, as I did, but then also went on to be a dual Commonwealth Games athlete, so 1998 and 2002.
We’ve just connected through Instagram on #Olympicmoms, which is always the nicest to find your Olympic community. She’s a great business mentor and mentor to people in the community now in Australia. So, I had two different ones, Christian. I’m not sure who we can talk to, but I think both of those would be outstanding.
So I can certainly connect you with both of them, but yes, Michelle’s gorgeous. I’ve spoken to her a number of times and we stay connected a lot on Instagram and it’s really lovely, just, even I still stay connected with a lot of the girls that I played within the Australian team, but also different athletes that I played against around the world, which is really lovely.
One of my dear friends and teammates, Alyson Annan, who now coaches the women’s Dutch team, who are the number one hockey team in the world. We always had great rivals with the Dutch women’s team, being basically the number two team in the world.
It was like going to war, can I say that, when we played the Dutch. I just loved coming to Amsterdam. I’m so jealous that you’re sitting there. Amsterdam is my favorite city in the world.
They are incredible, the Dutch, in regards to what they do with hockey and I think with sport, we know that. But every time we came to Holland, we knew that we were coming to a first-class event. Not only was the hockey great, the atmosphere was huge.
The partying afterward was incredible and just beautiful people, beautiful fun people, and just world-class hockey. So it’s great to see Alyson coaching the women’s team over there and I really hope they do very, very well in Tokyo in 2021.
I have no doubt as to the number one team in the world that they will do very, very well. It’s going to be very exciting. It’s been pretty tough for all the Olympic athletes and as you would know, Christian, you’re part of that movement with the strength and conditioning coaching staff.
I don’t know, it would be so tough for the athletes, but I think now they’ve got some visibility on 2021. It’s great to see the athletes now being able to get back out and get into training and finish those qualifications that they all need to get across to Tokyo next year.
Her transition out of sport and her current business
Christian: You are now a business owner and in our pre-chat, you were quite enthusiastic about what you’re doing right now. Can you tell us more about what you’re doing?
Louise: Transitioning out of sport is something that I found, it’s a space that is always challenging for athletes. We live in this bubble of the sport when we’re in it and then to come out of the community is very tough.
I started university when I was playing but I never actually finished a degree, so I came out of it thinking about what I was going to do. One thing I’ve worked out was, I love talking to people.
I actually got into corporate. I worked in corporate Australia for over twelve years and worked in business development and sales roles, which I absolutely loved. Yes, fast-forwarding after having my family and taking on an instant family as well, I knew that corporate really wasn’t going to stand up for me with the demands of home.
I love business development. I had started another business after I finished playing as well. I knew I loved business development, entrepreneurship, working for myself, and having that flexibility. As a family, we travel a lot, so we’re very lucky to be able to travel to Europe, quite frequently and also here in Australia.
I was looking for a business opportunity, but I certainly wasn’t looking for this. It’s in the health and wellness space. It’s a global business. The great thing is that I get to run this. It’s like having my own franchise.
I get to run this business from wherever I am. I can run it from my own mobile phone because I take it with me. If I want to go to Croatia, I run my business from Croatia, but the great thing that I love about this is I get to really implement a lot of things that I learned from sports, the things that I really missed from giving up my sports.
So, those leadership roles, the mentoring that I was talking to you about. I now have an incredible team that we’re growing globally and which we can then help other people create a great team environment and have something also that they want to build for themselves.
The thing that’s really struck me, coming back into the community, but also with this new business that I have, is so many people put so many limits on themselves and this is a business where I’m able to work alongside people in the health and wellness industry and help them set themselves some goals.
What do they actually want to achieve? What would they love to have and to give to the greater good, whether that is creating a charity or whether that might be taking their family on an overseas holiday annually, or whether that is helping someone get out of the corporate world and have more time freedom for themselves and their family.
For me, my aim with my businesses is to actually use the business to set up a charity here in Australia for talent-identified young athletes, like I was, in regional parts of Australia where we can give grants to athletes. They can then go to a World Cup, or go to a National Championships because I just saw so many children that were so talented, but their parents, for whatever reason, just couldn’t afford to do what my parents did.
That was to take us to spend eight hours a week on the road, to take me to Melbourne, which is the hub of hockey, where I lived, to be able to play for Victoria and to play for Australia and then to go on to be an Olympic gold medalist. I’m using this business as a way to give back to the greater good and give back to the community.
In the meantime, I get to help so many other people create so many more choices for themselves along the way. Yes, I’m just loving that feeling of what it’s giving me at the moment and being able to give back to so many more, not only in my community here but globally.
Alyson Annan, as I mentioned, she is a great business partner of mine and we don’t have products that we can distribute into Holland yet, but because she’s an Australian citizen, she can run her business, business stockless, she can run her business online from wherever she is in the world.
It’s pretty cool like that and I’m finding a lot of athletes that are really keen to reach out and touch base in regards to seeing what that’s about. As I said before, aligning with people that are quite like-minded and that’s been a great thing as well.
Christian: And from what I hear also, this business opportunity is actually quite good for athletes because you can do it remotely. You can do it from your phone and you can do it in the times when you are in between training sessions, for example, and it’s part-time, right?
Louise: It can be done part-time which is the great thing. As I said, I run this business from my phone. Yes, we do have products, so there’s over four hundred products in our brand across all sorts of personal care and nutrition products.
We’ve actually got other Olympians that are in the business as well, which is great. Not only just here in Australia, but overseas and that’s the great thing is, you can run this business in and around your competition.
You can put your phone down and not run your business, or you can pick it up when you want to do that. It’s a very low-risk business, as well, in regards to financial investments. That’s another great thing and athletes, particularly, you want to start having other things that you can do.
It’s important to have something else other than always the sport, but this can be a long-term vision that you might want to start setting up and just doing, as you say, on part-time hours, that in time will help with you for a nice transition when you come out the other end, where you can put more time if you choose to do that. A lot of people run this as a plan B as really just another stream of income.
If you look at a lot of so many entrepreneurs around the world, they say having seven streams of income is what true entrepreneurs do. This is just creating another stream of income. It’s been fantastic.
The income is certainly one part of it, but I would say it’s just the personal development. It’s incredible and that’s one of the things that I’ve really loved about it. I have to say, I know again, it probably sounds cheesy, but this is something that I have not found in regards to teamwork since I left playing with Hockeyroo.
I spent twelve years in corporate Australia and yes, they pledged teamwork and I loved my time in corporate, but this is something that is completely different and really ticks the boxes for people like us who have been in sport as well.
Where can you find Louise Dobson
Christian: Where can people find you?
Louise: Either through LinkedIn or I’m also on Instagram. Just under LouDobson on Instagram, you can find me. So generally probably more Instagram than LinkedIn, but LinkedIn, that’s how we met Christian.
I’m using LinkedIn more and more these days. Yes, just Louise Dobson on LinkedIn; you’ll find me, which would be great to connect with anyone out there. I’d love to do that.
Louise Dobson’s social profiles
Christian: Louise. Thanks a lot for your time. That was great.
Louise: Thank you! Thank you so much, Christian. Thanks so much for having me.