The most beautiful people we know are those that have known defeat, known suffering, known struggling, known loss but have found their way out of the depths. They have overcome challenges to triumph. And for that they are strong, inspiring and have an appreciation, understanding and compassion for life. Their scares do not define them, but show where they have risen from and what it took to get to now. We have watched this girl battle from the day she came into our lives, and far before she stepped into the boxing ring. She will soon be fighting for our country at the Commonwealth Games. We could not be more proud than to introduce you to Shelly Watts...
You are an inspirational person and athlete to us and will soon be known by many. Can you tell us what lead you to boxing
Boxing was definitely not a sport I had ever thought about or intended on trying. I was studying at Southern Cross University and playing soccer for the Lismore Thistles when I suffered a pretty serious knee injury, tearing my ACL which required a reconstruction. After 12 months of rehab, I wanted to start getting fit again and turned to boxing as I had a friend at the time, who was starting to fight competitively. Laura and I have fun memories of doing boxing training sessions in our lounge room at uni, punching the pads with our pink gloves. I was always very adamant that I didn't want to compete or fight, just wanted to get fit and help my friend who was actually fighting. But as I learnt more and picked up new skills, I guess the lure of the ring was too much for me not to test my new abilities in the ring.
Unfortunately in Australia there is a lack of funding for our athletes and whilst many have an ability to win they are unable to sustain a living whilst training to achieve their goals, which is why so many people stop for they need to work in order to live. Can you tell us about these challenging times and what the best chance for change is
Amateur boxing is definitely not a sport you do if you want to make money or live comfortably while you attempt to achieve success at a domestic or international level. We don't get paid for stepping through the ropes and it is also very hard to work because there is a lot of travel needed if you really want to be the best. I have made a lot of sacrifices for the past four years, and especially this year, stopping full time employment in order to make my dreams a reality. I stopped working in January this year, knowing that the best chances for me to win the Australian Title and gain selection onto the Commonwealth Games Team required me to travel to different states in Australia to chase the best training and sparing partners. It definitely hasn't been easy, but when my name was announced on the team - it was worth it and I wouldn't change a thing.
We know you had the opportunity to professionally box which would still have given you the chance to fight and win, but also be more financially stable. Why was your goal of going to the Commonwealth Games more important even though there was always the risk of not making it
I actually had someone from my home town ask me this same question. A lot of people don't understand why I would choose to struggle financially when I could turn professional to make money while I'm boxing. But, honestly, money is superficial. It can be made quickly and it can be spent even quicker. I'm a big believer in living my life to the full and not wanting to look back with regrets wishing I had done things differently. The way I see it - you can pick money up off the side of the street, but a Commonwealth Games, World Championship or Olympic medal can only be achieved through sacrifice, hard work, dedication, determination and a special will and self belief. If I am lucky enough to win a medal at any of these events, that will be worth so much more than any sum of money. And it will be something that lasts forever.
Who have been the greatest influences of your life both personally and professionally
I don't think I have a professional influence or a sporting personality that I specifically look up to or want to be in life. I believe that everyone is their only special and unique individual and rather than inspire to be like someone else, I'd much prefer to just be the best Shelley Watts I can be.
As for a personal influence, there is very special lady who is my hero - Mama! My grandmother has been through so much in her life, so much pain, suffering and adversity and every time life throws her a curve ball, she doesn't ever get angry or upset; she just tackles the obstacle head on with a smile. She recently had the bad news from the doctor she had gotten cancer. I remember being very emotional about it and when I rushed home to be with her, she looked at me and said 'there's not point in wondering or questioning why me. The reality is this is an obstacle I'm going to have to deal with. I will try my hardest to stay strong and beat this and I will trust the doctor's ability and advice to help me beat this because that's their job'. She amazes me everyday.
Have there been moments where you feel like giving up
Of course! There are some times when you're tired from the three sessions a day, six days a week. Or when you've had a bad fight or spar and you think 'what am I doing', 'why am I doing this'. I remember when I was in Europe at the end of last year for an eight week camp and I had a constant black eye from all the sparring and fights and I looked at myself in the mirror and thought 'enough is enough'. Being a female and having black eyes and having to cover them up day after day can emotionally take it out of you But you have to always remember when these thoughts pop into your head that every day isn't supposed to be easy. If it was easy, it wouldn't be worth it. Setbacks are simply the chance for a better comeback! I just have to remind myself why I love this sport and what I'm doing and that usually reiterates the lesson I need to learn at the time.
What motivates you
The best thing about boxing is every day is a lesson. You can never have enough skill or knowledge about boxing and everyday in the ring brings new challenges and it is these challenges that motivate and drive me. I have always wanted to succeed at a high level at a sport and that drives me to keep working hard, making sacrifices to get to that level and also to stay there!
What does Shelley do when she is not training and fighting for her dreams
Enjoy myself! Eat too much junk food, spend time with my family and just enjoy being relaxed and calm. We don't get too much time off training and away from the boxing and that can be taxing and make things hard, but it's all worth it when you win, or learn something new, or even meet new and amazing people!
Can you tell us about the moment you found out that you would be representing Australia at the Commonwealth Games
I've been lucky enough to have been training with the two other girls going to the Games - Kaye Scoot and Kristy Harris - for the past two years and the only way I can describe the moment we all found out that we had been selected as EUPHORIC! Boxing is an individual sport but without the training partners, coaches and ongoing support of people around you every day, I couldn't have achieved anything I have so far. The day we were told was such an anxious, slow day! We trained twice before the announcement at 12pm and as time got closer and closer, we all become quieter and more reserved hoping we weren't going to be one of the ones called into the office early to be told we hadn't been selected in the team. When I realised I made the team I was nervous, overwhelmed but probably the most relieved I have ever felt knowing that all of hard work, commitment and sacrifice had paid off! I can still remember everything about the moment when I found out myself and the girls had been selected and I don't think it's a moment I will ever forget!
I fight to
Become a better person. To push my boundaries. To make my family and friends proud. To show my little brothers that anything is possible with hard work, dedication and belief. To increase my own self esteem. I fight because of the sense of achievement is powerful! And to show that adversity does not limit potential!
Winning doesn't always mean having my hand in the air raised in victory! The time I stepped out of the ring the happiest with my performance was actually after I lost against the 5th ranked boxer in the world. I think to me winning is more about winning outside of the ring. Boxing has made me a better person, it has made me grow, believe in myself and my ability, it has given me strength I didn't know I had, and it has helped me learn how to adapt to whatever challenge comes my way.
I just want to say a big thank you for asking me to do this interview for Matters Speaking! It is truly an honour and very humbling to know that I am someone you both believe in is inspiring! You two inspire me and I am so happy you have been able to follow this venture and I am sure it will lead to amazing success and opportunities!