As we hit the ground running in 2019, I wanted to start by taking this opportunity to thank the Westminster community for welcoming me into my new role as Head of Sport Development and High Performance. In what has been a very busy few weeks at the end of 2018 and start of 2019 I have met many of the students, parents and staff who have already made me feel very at home and supported in taking the sports program into the new and very exciting year ahead.
Things to look out for in 2019 will be an increase in the visibility of our sporting student’s achievements and formalisation of our High Performance Program and the services offered.
With that said, I am very pleased to introduce our very first Sports Person in Residence program Athlete for 2019, Australia’s number 1 ranked player, National Champion and Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist Beach Volleyballer Damien "Damo" Schumann. Not only renowned as a great player, Damo is an exceptional human, usually quiet spoken and humble, his reputation as a “good guy” is what truly makes him outstanding. Prior to turning pro, Damien was actually a school teacher for seven years at Victoria’s Mazenod College where he ran the Volleyball program and coached at numerous Australian Schools Cup events.
Damo will be on ground at Westminster throughout Term 1 working across both the Prep and Senior School for maximum benefit to the whole school community. Damo has already lead training sessions with our middle and open boy’s teams, with the girls and prep school activities to start in the following weeks.
As a very non-stereotypical volleyball athlete, Damo’s personal story is quite incredible, having being cut from or not selected for many teams in his youth. His determination, resilience and self-belief are the pillars on which his achievements to date stand today, and the story and lessons learnt are ones which he wants to share with our students.
I sat down to chat with Damo in the lead up to his time with us and asked some tough and not so tough questions in an effort to ‘Get to know Damo” a little better which I will share with you now.
Lauren: Damien, can you tell us why you agreed to be Westminster’s Sports person in Residence Program?
Damo: I was previously involved as a teacher in Mazenod College prior to moving to Adelaide to turn full time athlete. When I had the opportunity to be involved in an elite school sporting program and help out some kids I thought it would be the perfect job to give back a little.
L : Who influenced your sporting career most when you were growing up?
D: It's funny , I never actually had a specific sporting idol. I always loved and barracked for Collingwood so I looked up to Nathan Buckley , but in Volleyball it was just the older players who were around Victoria. It was never any one player, I would research and look up the players who were better than me and basically mimic anything I could to better my game.
L: Is there anything that your older, more mature self would tell your younger self?
D: Yes, and its actually one of the things I can’t wait to share with the kids at Westminster. I think I learned that the quicker you can be completely honest with yourself is essential, as well as learning not to care about what other people may think about you when you are trying to climb you way up different sporting ladders. Basically learn to deal with your own ego both supporting yourself and being resilient to others when they are not as supportive of your goals.
L: What is your most outstanding skill as an athlete?
D: I probably have two skills which are think are good attributes. Firstly my hand eye coordination, which is something I’ve worked on for years. Always having a footy with me, I used to sleep with one when I was a little kid, and as I got older always having a volleyball with me especially in the car and just touching a ball as much as I could. Also I think my attitude towards training was another skill which has helped me to develop, do extra sessions especially when things haven’t been going my way (which has been a lot), so the ability to persevere basically.
L: What is your favourite part about being an elite athlete?
D: It's actually when you are in the heat of battle, when the nerves are gone within the game and you are just going toe to toe with some of the best players in the world. Getting to throw everything you have at some of the great players in the world. I’ve been lucky enough to compete against and at times beat some of the highest ranked Olympic Athletes in the world and it’s just the best feeling.
L: So in contrast what is your least favourite?
D: I really don’t like the nerves before hand. I know a lot of people tell me, and I tell myself, it's my bodies way of getting me ready and to lean into the discomfort, but I still don’t like the feeling.
L: Can you tell us your most memorable victory?
D: At the time, winning my first national tour was amazing. But there have been so many special moments which have been stepping stones that are all special for different reasons. Getting on world tour, winning my first match on world tour, but the stand out moment to date would have to be winning the Commonwealth Games gold medal. The tournament itself was amazing, but it was very, very special to have so many Australians able to watch us compete and watch high level beach volleyball matches. It just doesn’t happen very often, a lot of our exploits are all done overseas so to have all your family and friends, and the Australian sporting public watching the games was incredible.
L: Can you describe that feeling when you stepped up to the podium to receive that medal?
D: Yeah, it was quite numbing to get up there and actually receive that medal. To be honest it wasn’t my favourite moment. My favourite moment was the moment that we won the last point, that was the best. A lot of people say its stepping up to the podium, but that split second where you play the last point and you go from not having won to having won, and that five seconds where you know you have done it, that’s indescribable.
L: Are there any loses that are outstanding in your memory?
D: Yeah in 2017, we were playing an Olympic gold medallist, where we playing in front of a packed grandstand in Austria. It was one set a piece, and winning 13:10 in the 3rd to 15. We had an opportunity and we lost, and that haunts me. I’ve thought about this one the most because we had a chance to beat one of the very best in world at a World Championships.
L: And what did you take away from that loss?
D: Often in my career I’ve been told I’m not tall enough or I might not be good enough, whereas inside myself I’ve always had this belief that I am good enough and I do belong on the world stage. Even though I’ve had that strong belief, sometimes of course I’ve had doubts but what I took out of this game was that even though we didn’t win, we were good enough to put ourselves in a position to beat the best teams in the world.
L: Just to wrap up, can you give us a snapshot of a day in the life of Damo?
D: Well I’m not a morning person at all so I try to sleep into the very last moment I can, and I’m quite inflexible as well so I usually just head straight into the lounge room and start triggering and foam rolling and get going. I usually get to training a little early so I can do extra reps. I love doing extra touches on the ball and getting the skills going. We then train for a few hours, I come home and make a stack of food, before going back for a second training session or a second gym session. Then my wife will come home and tell me all the things I forgotten to do because I’ve been watching volleyball or sport on TV.
Thank you to Damo for taking the time to let us get to know a bit more about him - I am looking forward to having him as part of the Westminster community.
Head of Sport Development and High Performance