Year 11 student Kirra Tappenden is reaching lofty heights in her early netball career, with a sensational season so far in 2023.
Kirra is mentored as part of our Flinders Elite Athlete Program at Matthew Flinders Anglican College, supporting her to balance her academics and sporting life in a healthy and proactive manner.
Kirra’s recent opportunities include competing as part of the 17 and Under Queensland state team in the National Netball Championships in Darwin in April. She was also invited to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) camp with the Australian U17 squad, and named a shadow for the Australian Fast5 Youth team.
We asked Kirra some questions about her career goals and the support she receives through FEAP.
How are these achievements important to your career?
I’m honoured to be selected for these teams and squads as it shows that all the hard work I’ve put in has paid off. One of the main things I love about netball is meeting new people and making lifelong friendships, so having the opportunity to meet girls from all across Australia is really exciting. Making these teams and squads early in my career can be beneficial long-term as I’ve been talent identified and it goes on my permanent netball record. It’s also important that I continue training at a high level against strong girls as it will ensure I continue to improve.
What extra training and commitments will result from these new opportunities?
After making the Australian squad, I’ve been travelling to Brisbane every Tuesday this term for extra training and testing with all the other Queensland girls who made the squad. Making reserve for the Australian Fast5 Youth team meant doing online meetings with the team every second week to get to know each other, as well as getting my first passport incase I get pulled into the team. Following up to the Youth Commonwealth Games, a staging camp from 29 July-3 August will take place in Sydney.
How will you fit it all into your weekly schedule?
By doing this extra training on Tuesdays, I have to sacrifice training with my Sunshine Coast Thunder team. Other than this, the extra training only partially interferes with my training schedule but definitely cuts into my study time.
How are Flinders and the FEAP helping you to organise your extra commitments so that you can also concentrate on your studies?
Being in FEAP allows me the opportunity to drop a subject for a study lesson which I have done. This extra study lesson has been very beneficial because I get to dedicate four extra hours a week to schoolwork during school time, rather than having to worry about fitting it in before or after sport—which doesn’t leave much spare time.
Who else is supporting you at Flinders to help get through your busy weeks?
Secondary Teacher Mrs Cossell has been my academic mentor since moving to Flinders in Year 8. I go to her if I need help academically or need to ask my teachers for extensions or other academic support. FEAP Director Ms Nourse is a big help in managing all of my sporting commitments, helping me to stay organised and guiding me in how to prioritise competing demands.
What are your goals for your career?
A short-term goal is to make the Queensland squad again in September and hopefully progress into the team for 2024. Another short-term goal is to play for a Sapphire netball team next year. My long-term goals are to play in the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) competition for either the Firebirds or Lightning. A long-term goal is to play netball in the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.
What have been your favourite workshops through FEAP so far?
My favourite and most eye-opening workshops in FEAP are the Old Flinderian students who have been very successful in their sports. They return to campus to talk to us about how they managed their time whilst they were in school and what they prioritised. Getting this insight from people who have experienced the stress of playing sports at a high level as well as keeping up in school has given me tips on how to stay on track and ahead in schoolwork.
What is your dream study or career beyond Flinders Year 12?
I’m still not completely sure at this point but I’m quite interested in sports psychology and think it could be beneficial to my own performance.
What are you learning about studying and being organised, that helps you make your busy life feel more manageable?
To stay organised and make sure I’m always on top of my tasks, I make a list of things I need to get done and tick them off when completed. In terms of training, I always pack my bag the night before so I don’t need to worry about quickly doing it before training.
What is your advice for other student athletes?
It's vital to stay ahead of work when you can. This could be looking at an assignment item a few days or weeks before you begin so you’re prepared. Following on from that advice, it helps to hand in assignments early so that you can receive feedback early—especially when you know you have a busy week or a few events coming up.
Take every spare minute during classes to work on anything you can, because you don’t want to fall behind and be doing classwork as well as homework after school. Make sure you have a person (it could be a close friend or teacher) who you go to for help. Don’t struggle in silence; it’s okay to be stressed and feel like you’re falling behind but it won’t get any better if you don’t have the support you need and someone to reach out to.
To learn more about the Flinders Elite Athlete Program and meet some of our student athletes, visit the FEAP here.