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How national volleyball coach Shannon Winzer does it all

Shannon Winzer makes achieving success look easy. The Canada-born sportswoman moved to Australia with her husband more than 10 years ago and in that time she’s climbed the coaching ranks to become the first head coach at the Volleyball Australia Women’s Centre for Excellence. In addition, she’s coaching the national Volleyroos team. On the way to accepting these highly regarded positions, she also completed a Graduate Diploma of International and Community Development at Deakin University and is raising three children under six. On the surface, Shannon appears to be able to do it all. But here she admits that she must choose which aspects of life she can give herself completely to at any one time.

Playing to win

When Shannon, 37, and her husband started their family, her focus shifted from playing volleyball at an elite level. But after her first child was born, she was asked to coach the University Blues, a struggling team in the Australian Volleyball League. ‘We won four years in a row. Volleyball Australia took notice,’ Shannon says. Thanks to her coaching and leadership skills, Shannon stepped up to coach the national Volleyroos team for the first time in 2016, beating 30 other applicants to win the coveted position.

In 2016 the position with the Volleyroos took her to the volleyball World Grand Prix, which meant travelling to locations including Kazakhstan, Cuba and Mexico, and taking unpaid leave from her full-time role working with migrants and refugees at community organisation ERMHA. ‘I had an understanding employer who was extremely supportive,’ Shannon says. But even so, she made the decision to resign from this role in late 2016 to make more time for professional sport commitments and family.

Eye on the ball

‘If I really want to do something I make it work,’ Shannon says, but also admits that managing a career, extracurricular activities and a family is not easy, particularly because she has maintained so many commitments even during early motherhood. ‘I would feed my newborn on the sidelines while my assistant coach took the drill,’ she recalls.

'If I really want to do something I make it work ... I would feed my newborn on the sidelines while my assistant coach took the drill.'

Shannon Winzer,
Graduate Diploma of International and Community Development graduate, Deakin University

Shannon says the guilt working mothers experience is real, but she’s fortunate that her kids can often see her in her workplace. Although she’s experienced criticism for choosing to further her career while raising small children, Shannon argues, ‘My children see these strong, hardworking women playing at an elite level,’ and suggests its a good thing for her children to be exposed to. Shannon also wants to set an example, instilling drive, independence and resilience.

Although she’s chosen to put her work in community development on hold for now, the skills are transferable in her sporting leadership role. ‘I want to help younger females,’ she says. ‘It’s about developing your support networks. It doesn’t have to be family. I’m surrounded by great people in the volleyball community and they understand where I’m coming from,’ she concludes.

Interested in pursuing a career in sport? Check out the sport courses offered by Deakin University.

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