Turn on a TV on any given day in Australia, and you’re almost guaranteed there will be a sport of some sort featuring. In a country where sport and it’s stars are idolised, it’s surprising that women feature in only 7% of sports programming on Australian TV.
Professional athletes are distinguished from amateur athletes by virtue of being paid enough to earn a living. Throughout the world, most top female athletes are not paid, or work full-time or part-time jobs in addition to their training, practice and competition schedules.
Born in Adelaide, South Australia, Nicole Romeo has played College Basketball in the US, in the Womens National Basketball League in Australia and is currently living in Spain, playing in the Euro cup.
We talked to Nicole, who despite the odds and challenges that come with being a female athlete, continues to make a career as a professional basketball player.
What does an average week look like for you?
For the most part my weeks are quite repetitive. We train twice a day 11-1.30 and 5-7.30. Mornings sessions are on court and the afternoon is a mix between lifting weights and agility/cardio sessions – with plenty of coffee in between! At the moment I’m playing in two different leagues (Lliga Femenina and Euro cup) meaning some weeks we travel more than others, so the training load is less but recovery becomes more essential.
What is it really like to move overseas for your career?
It’s so many things! It’s exciting; there’s always a new adventure, new culture and new people to meet. It can be intimidating because you’re leaving a lot of home comforts behind like your family and friends. You can question your decision, like what if the job isn’t the right fit or you don’t perform at a high enough level. You would think being surrounded by people all day, every day you wouldn’t get lonely, but it can be quite the opposite. But I get paid to travel the world and do what I love, which I will never take for granted. I have built some of the most amazing friendships with people all around the world from different backgrounds; that’s something I consider priceless.
How are you able to continue to do what you do?
Passion – I love the game!
Dedication- I can’t be a professional athlete unless I keep myself in the best physical shape possible. I control what I put into my body, seek medical attention like physio, chiropractor, massage and accupuncture and make sure I get enough sleep and recovery to perform at my best. I think the most important thing is mental toughness. You are in a forever changing environment, which means you have to be highly adaptable. Your life really functions in 6-8 month segments in line with the basketball seasons and the months in between, sometimes you have no one idea what your next step is.
It’s not a secret that there’s a considerable gender pay gap when it comes to trying to be a professional athlete. As females we face a lot more adversity trying to have a balance between life and maintaining a professional sporting career. Particularly in Australia where basketball is a semi- professional sport a lot of the athletes have full time jobs to support themselves whilst playing. If we were paid adequately things would be alot different.
What do you do in your months off from the professional seasons?
Romeo Basketball is a small business that I happened to fall into. I started training a couple of kids in the mornings and it quickly escalated within the year to training hundreds across Melbourne. The connection I made with each individual athlete in their willingness to learn, to get better and just their pure love for the game is basically how Romeo Basketball came to life.
I now have specialist programs running throughout various schools, academies and camps across Melbourne covering all facets of basketball, designed to improve skills and maximize enjoyment. It’s key objective is to motivate and inspire healthy and active lifestyle whilst providing a platform for social development and inclusion.
The best part of my job is when I have taught the athlete something new or given them a challenge that they may have never seen before or a skill they have yet to master. They come back to me a week later so excited to show me what they can do or how successfully they have applied what I’ve taught them. I find it so rewarding the fact that I have motivated that individual enough to go away in their own time, to better themselves.
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by strong, independent, open minded people. I like to surround myself with people who are driven, know what they want and are able show empathy and kindness.
What are you currently working on?
I’m taking classes in Spanish. I’ve played in Spain for the past 3 seasons and have come to the realization that it’s time to expand past the barriers of just being able to say Hola and order myself a coffee!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
Know your value.
There’s a time in everyone’s life when you experience failure or told you’re not good enough at something. I’m a strong believer in feeling, observing, growing and learning in the pain and disappointments, but I hold greater importance in protecting my value and never losing sight of it.
Has there ever been a time when you thought about giving it all up?
No. I think if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you make it work. Even when there are setbacks and all you can think about is quitting, you just physically and mentally can’t, because your passion overrides it. Here I am at 5’6 and have been playing basketball professionally for the past ten years and I still have to show photographic evidence to complete strangers to prove basketball is really my job.
What does 2018 hold in store for you?
Professionally, I’d love to win a European championship. I’m hoping to expand Romeo Basketball into more schools and academies across Melbourne so I’m working really hard towards that. On a personal level, I’d like to finish my season strong and of course just to be happy and healthy!
CANVAST HOT MINUTE
What would you be doing if you weren’t playing basketball?
Working with kids and having a shit load more time to indulge myself in coffee and smashed avo dates
A day of training?
Weights, on court training, shooting, film (scout), coffee and more coffee
Favourite work-out track?
Beyoncé never disappoints
Apple Pie- can never turn it down
Want to learn?
Sport you watch?
Pretty much everything other than sports that go for excessive periods of time like cricket, golf and car racing.
Organised or messy?
Messy. I need a Canvast in my life.
You can hola at Nicole on the following: