Because practicing a sport can be as exciting as it can be challenging, and because the path to fame is not always as straightforward as we expected it to be when we started, we asked our ambassadors to come back on their journey’s path through euphoria, discipline and overcoming. What keeps them motivated no matter what? Here are their stories and their secrets!
"To stand out, you have to have good mental resistance" - Sarah-Jeanne Meunier-Bédard
After years of volleyball, Sarah-Jeanne joined the Canadian National Team and moved to Toronto! Her goal? The Olympic Games of 2024! This great athlete baring a sweet smile is carving herself a spot among the best in her sport with seriousness, commitment and dedication.
The mind, a challenge sometimes bigger than the body.
Sarah-Jeanne recognizes it from the start, "I would say that my greatest evolution is in mental and physical strength. By taking my training more seriously I got stronger and became much more resistant. I remember flinching mentally many times when I was younger." But if the context of indoor volleyball doesn’t allow the young Sarah-Jeanne to express her full potential, beach volleyball approaches the discipline with a different philosophy. "The psychological aspect is very different for beach volleyball, there are no substitutions (unlike indoor volleyball) and if the other team decides to aim you and you give up mentally, your partner can’t finish the game alone . So it's important to present yourself at every game but also at every training session with confidence. "explains the young athlete.
One thing is certain, as the competition level grows, the requirements and the level of difficulty also increases. Talent and skills of athletes become similar and so does the techniques so for Sarah-Jeanne, there is only one way to stand out: “You have to have good mental resistance. If I look at my evolution over the years, I think that I’ve made giant steps at this level of my game.”
Our worst enemy is ourselves.
While the mind plays a key role in an athlete's success, many factors can affect her peace of mind. Stress, lack of sleep, events outside the competition, etc. But the worst enemy to the mind is definitely oneself and the confidence one has defines one's own success. "When I went to regional or provincial teams, I was often told that I had good potential, but I never had the time to play and it made me very anxious (...). I had learned to hate the word “potential”. For me, when I heard it, it was a polite way of telling me that I had good physical abilities, but not a lot of talent!” Recalls Sarah-Jeanne. It was the same year, 2013, that the coach to whom she had entrusted this feeling, told her that she was selected to represent Quebec at the Canada Games.
As an athlete, it’s normal to go through periods of doubt, periods of stress that often accompany moments when performance is below what we can achieve. But if there’s something that’s constant among all our ambassadors, it’s the importance of recognizing these moments, of accepting them for what they are and then getting back to work by focusing on the objectives we’ve set for ourselves.
The entourage, the first asset!
To keep focus on the positive when nothing seems to go, the entourage plays a vital role in the life of the athlete. Whether on the training side, nutrition, support of loved ones: everything has an impact in the performance of the athlete. "For nutrition, now that I take this more seriously, the body responds much better. I feel that I have more energy every day and therefore I’m able to perform better and longer "explains Sarah-Jeanne.
But it’s also her family and teammate who feed her strength. “It really helps me to have Hélène with me. Going through the full range of emotions and not keeping it for yourself, to share with someone who understands what you’re living, it’s really a big plus!” states our ambassador. That said, her success, accompanied by her move to Toronto, is not what she prefers: “Being away from family and friends in a city that is unknown to me and in a language I understand but isn’t my mother tongue, [it's difficult]. I always tell people that I’m a much funnier person in French than in English!” Exclaims the young woman!
Photo: Hélène Rancourt & Sarah-Jeanne Meunier-Bédard
To build the rest of her career, Sarah-Jeanne also learnt to appreciate the joy of winning, one game at a time and to play in front of her family as she did at the Boucherville Open in late July, or she confides, the simple pleasures like "when you get to the beach in the mornings before training and when you do your warm-up through mobility exercises. The simple fact of being on the edge of a beach to [focus] on the next minutes of training that are coming, it's a little piece of happiness!”. From one province to another and as far as Asia, find Sarah-Jeanne on our social networks to encourage her and don’t hesitate to ask her your questions in the comments section below.
*Note: The athlete’s quotes in this text were originally taken in French and translated to English.