Narelle Mason never intended to compete in Warrior Games 2019.
“Sport isn’t my thing,” says Narelle. “I’m not great at sport, I never have been.”
But through sport, and through help from Veteran Sport Australia, Narelle is now part of Team Australia at Warrior Games 2019 in Tampa, Florida. It’s given her a new purpose and changed everything for her family.
“I Didn’t Know What I Was”
Narelle was in the Royal Australian Air Force Security Police for nearly 10 years.
Life became challenging after she was medically discharged in 2017. Injuries to her knee and back made her physically demanding role difficult.
The lack of focus after leaving the Air Force left Narelle with feelings of anxiety. She didn’t know what to do with herself and spent 18 months “just floundering”.
“I didn’t know what I was or what I was supposed to do anymore.”
Narelle’s Air Force Family
Narelle is a mum and part of an Air Force family. Her husband is currently serving as an Airborne Electronics Analyst.
Things are tough when her husband is away on duty. Narelle balances other parts of her life with looking after their two children; 4-year-old daughter Charlie, and 8-year-old son Josh.
Josh has cerebral palsy and has a higher level of needs, meaning Narelle devotes much of her time caring for him at home. A busy family life combined with anxiety and a lack of purpose meant it was hard for Narelle to stay active and healthy.
A Facebook Message & Renewed Purpose
One day Narelle was scrolling through Facebook and saw some of her friends competing in Invictus Games 2018. Amazed by the change she’d seen in them, she sent one friend a “good on you” message. This eventually led her to The Road Home Invictus Pathway Program in South Australia.
Friends encouraged Narelle to join and she didn’t look back. Through training programs with coaches and other veterans Narelle rediscovered the team spirit and camaraderie that she’d not had since the Air Force.
Through the Invictus Pathway Narelle learned about the Warrior Games and stepped up her training to get on the team. Competing with a community of veterans gave her purpose and allowed her to set goals for herself. Things began to move forward for Narelle but family life was still busy.
“I feel like I’m moving forward with my life which is motivating me in other areas.”
Help from Veteran Sport Australia
Veteran Sport Australia provided the financial assistance to buy a treadmill for Narelle. With this she could keep up with her training while looking after Charlie and Josh at home.
Narelle said the support from Veteran Sport Australia was amazing.
“There’s a pretty good chance without it I wouldn’t have made the Warrior Games team or wouldn’t have even continued my training.”
Fun Mum First, Warrior Second
One day at RAAF Base Edinburgh, Narelle’s husband and kids were watching her train. Charlie asked her mum to run some races with her. Josh joined in in his wheelchair.
When they’d finished running around and playing chase, Charlie said “mum, that was so much fun”. It occurred to Narelle that this was a first. She’d never been able to play actively with her children before.
“It wasn’t until I was a fun mum that I realised I’d not been a fun mum for four years,” said Narelle.
Becoming A Role Model for Her Children
The effect that sport has had on Narelle’s family is forever. She wants to stay fit even after the Games and continue being a fun mum.
“I didn’t realise how much of life I was missing until I started down this path. It’s changed everything for me and my family.”
One of Narelle’s goals is to be a role model for her children, particularly Josh.
Narelle often encourages Josh to keep on going when he’s doing exercises with his physiotherapist. Encouraging Josh to push through his tiredness and discomfort makes Narelle feel hypocritical if she doesn’t push herself too. Now she wants to be an inspiration to both of her children.
“I wasn’t looking to change my life because I didn’t realise that it needed to be changed.”
Take Your Opportunity
Narelle is looking forward to competing in Warrior Games 2019. Despite never expecting to be an elite athlete, Narelle is aiming for personal bests in each event.
Veteran Sport Australia plans to catch up with Narelle after the Warrior Games. Keep an eye out as Narelle continues her journey through sport to a brighter future, including taking a crack at getting on the team for Invictus Games 2020.
Narelle’s message to others – “take the opportunity while it’s there”. She hopes her journey through the Warrior Games and the change that sport has given her family can inspire other veterans.
Veteran Sport Australia can connect you to veteran-friendly sport and activities in your area. Sign up to the e-newsletter, keep in touch on Facebook or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to find the right opportunity for you. Do what Narelle says and “take it”.