Our Unknown Achievers

Sharlene Kelly and Lana Rogers.

By Ron Lane

When we take a close look at the community in which we live, it is always interesting to note the number of different organisations that contribute toward making our place of abode, a safe, progressive and happy place in which to live, raise our families and socialise: and of course, the success of all organisations is reliant on its people, be they from the world of business, medicine, entertainment, sport or whatever. It will always get back to its people.

When we look at our world of sport, the number of state national and international medal winners within our community is incredible : sadly, despite living in this somewhat small community, the achievements of both the athletes and the coaches remain unknown. Today, we take the opportunity to become more aware of just two of these very successful unknowns that we refer to as, the Coach. And there will be others.

It was several years ago, that on the Monday morning, following yet another successful Noosa Triathlon, I had the privilege of sitting in the office of the guru of the Noosa Triathlon, the late Garth Proud. As you can imagine the conversation was centred around sport: not just the Triathlon, but sport in general.

After a while he made a comment, that has not only stayed with me down through the years, but always comes to mind whenever I learn of yet another of our athletes, succeeding at the state, national and international level. “You know mate with the right people in place running this town, it could easily become the sporting capital of Australia.”

If you take the time to draw up a list of our achievers, both coaches and athletes, then add the number of state and international teams and personalities that have visited our place of abode for training camps,(such as the British Lions Rugby Touring side) you would have to agree that the remark, made by this great gentleman, was without a doubt, spot on. The possibility is there to make those famous words a reality.

Be that as it may, I think that it is time that we take the opportunity to acknowledge some of our people: people who have made their presence felt as coaches, not only locally, but also at state, national and international level.

One such person is the Head Coach of Noosa Athletics, Mick Hooper. Mick, who is the proud holder of the International Level 4 IAAF Qualification in Coaching: it is this qualification that enables Mick to coach athletes at elite level. “I have been fortunate to have coached 12 athletes who have, combined, won a total of over 70 Australian medals in various events.”

For Mick, it seems that he was born to live the sporting life. On leaving high school his first journey into the world of sport was when he joined the Sydney Bulldog Juniors, where for two successive years, he made the NSW U/18 team, playing second row. In the years that followed his love of football saw him play in the English league and final, on settling on the Sunshine Coast with his wife Val in tow, played for the local clubs Maroochydore Swans. This led to his selection in the Falcons.

His private life, in part, saw him do a term of 14 years Army with two stints in Timor Leste. Come time to settle and for the Hooper family, which then consisted of wife Val, three sons and a daughter, their choice was Noosa Banks. For the family life, it was Noosa Nippers in summer and winter, Noosa Pirates Rugby League. It was then that his coaching career really took off.

This saw him coaching for nine years in the junior league: also on Friday afternoons he coached the Noosa Little Athletics. His wife Val, a very successful athletic administrator at State level, saw this as a family affair with fitness and fun for the kids. ‘’It was definitely a family affair.” On moving into the senior ranks with his experience and coaching capabilities, his successes have been outstanding: achievements at national level, have resulted in some of his athletes gaining International selection.

In 2014 Jordan Csabi won the U/18 200m men’s, thus gaining selection in the Youth Olympic Games in China: finishing 10th in his final. It was in 2016, that Samantha Stanley won the U/17 Australian,100,200 m sprint and triple jump, then later that year, became the first female to win the famous Noosa Gift, 110 m professional sprint. The year 2018 saw more achievements: Zane Branco won the Australian U/20 200m sprint in record time, and Samantha Johnson won a bronze medal in the women’s U/20 100 m Hurdles, in what was a world junior qualifying time. The times run by these Noosa Juniors, training under Mick Hooper, saw them selected for the Australian U/20s team, to compete in the World Junior Athletics Championships in Finland July 2018: a carnival which saw over 180 countries from around the world competing.

Zane finished an amazing 5th in a blanket finish in his final and Samantha qualified for the semies in the 100 m Hurdles: then backed up to run 3rd leg in the 4x 100m relay which finished 7th in the final, in Australian record time. To have our juniors, competing under a local coach at World Junior Titles overseas and perform well, is something in which we should take pride. So why keep it quiet.

What comes across as one of Micks major virtues, is his ability to communicate with athletes at all levels. “As they get older and progress through the levels, there comes time for their serious chat. This is the time that we as coaches, have to sit down, discuss their ambitions and if they are serious and have the determination, fully explain what lies ahead.”

Mick is sadly aware of the problems that lay ahead in his chosen sport: despite the fact that athletics in Australia gets little or no publicity, at the time of the Olympics, it carries the mantle of being the leading sport of the greatest competition of all, the Olympic Games.

With many of our sport coaches, on looking at their background, it is not unusual to find that they come from a very successful athletic career. Such a person is our Sharlene Kelly. Before settling as a coach in the Noosa Surf club, she had competed on surf ski and in kayaks. On the ski she won medals at both state and national level and in the kayaks, she won selection in the Australian K2 and K4 teams for a two-month tour of Europe: during which they contested the World Cup.

“It was several years ago that I decided my sporting ambition: it was to make a career out of coaching the young, to see them develop gives me a real thrill. Also, by coaching the young I feel that I am putting something back into the community.”

It was in 2016, that her coaching in Noosa started in earnest. However, not only did she coach the female ski relay team (a team of three paddlers)but also took part: in the process winning the Australian Championship. Then again in 2019 another ski paddler, a junior female Electram Outram, came under her coaching and won the Australian title.

Then in 2016, Sharlene met up with a new member, a very strong competitor named Lana Rogers and a partnership was formed. “Coming from a very competitive family, she was very motivated. For the first two years we worked on improving her technique, fitness, strength and controlled aggressive attitude: it was then she came to realise her potential.” This was to be the start of a very successful team of coach and athlete, one that would become something of a legend.

It was 2018 that the coaching really took off when Rogers won the blue-ribbon event at the Australian Titles, the Ironwoman Championship of Australia; following this she finished 3rd in the biggest marathon of all, the Coolangatta Gold, then in 2019 she backed up to win the Gold Medal. Both coach and athlete had made their mark. With the coaching and mental attitude deeply embedded by coach Kelly, the other major event the Nutrigrain Ironwoman Series 2020 was next. This she won and the following year, 2021, she made it two years in a row.

At this years’ Australian Iron Woman Championships, Lana finished second; despite not winning, Sharlene considered it one of her best performances ever. “As a coach I rate it as such, because days prior to the race she had to overcome a bout of sickness: typical of Lana, no one apart from her parents and I, knew anything about it. Her mental attitude, fighting spirit and good sportsmanship showed the true spirit of a great athlete”

As a coach, Sharlene Kelly is so highly regarded, not only because of her ability to write and activate successful training programs, (which guides the athlete through the seasons ahead) but also, her mental approach: an approach that enables her to be with and guide her athletes through the tough times. It is this ability to communicate, that leads this lady to achieve the above and beyond.

In todays’ society, with violence, crimes and the ever- present drug problems amongst our youth, the importance of a strong sporting environment within our community, is becoming more essential than ever. Thus, the role of our local highly ranked, but virtually unknown coaches, is of the utmost importance, not only to their chosen sports, but also to that most vital of all commodities, our families: in other words- Our People.