UNSW Olympian Aaron Younger ready to take on Tokyo
Aaron Younger, UNSW AGSM graduate, and captain of the Aussie Sharks water polo team, is gearing up for his third Olympic appearance in Tokyo later this month.
Like many of us, Aaron has been impacted by the COVID19 pandemic. In his case this means training ‘virtually’ with his team in Sydney, while he is over in Italy.
He shares what this experience has been like, how he finds motivation, and what advice he would give his younger self.
How did you get started in Water Polo?
I lived near Bicton Water Polo Pool (in Western Australia) so went down to give it a go one day and fell in love with the sport. I started water polo around 10 years of age. I was always in the water with my family, so I was into swimming and sport from a young age. I played multiple sports at a young age but as water polo got more serious, I started to narrow my focus. Being involved with other sports through my development definitely helped though.
What do you love most about what you do?
It’s hard to narrow down anyone’s love of sport to just one thing. But a part I love is the out of the ordinary feelings and emotions that come with sport. That's something you don’t necessarily achieve in everyday life. The feeling of being able to overcome pressure, stress, and adversity to achieve something great with a group of people you have been working with under brutal conditions sometimes, is incredible. Obviously, you don’t always achieve what you were aiming for but it is the pressure and possibility of failure that is always there that makes achieving these goals all the more valuable and memorable when they do come.
How has your training style changed or pivoted in the midst of the unprecedented uncertainty that was 2020?
I have been playing in Italy this whole period, so a greatly different situation to Australia. On a club level we have been able to train rather normally as we have a private pool and gym. But our games and tournament structure have changed completely. We have had to reschedule games, including the Italian cup final, due to positive cases, and were subject to rigorous testing protocols throughout the season.
The bigger issue has been with the national team training. The national team has not played an international game in 18 months now, and will not play an official game before the Olympics starts. Additionally, the whole team is currently based in Australia and I am training alone in Italy due to quarantine and COVID19 restrictions in Australia. I will only meet the team on the 7th of July a couple of weeks before our first game in Tokyo. Even with this situation the team has done an amazing job of adapting to the situation and we're working full power to be ready for the Olympics.
How have you responded, adapted or innovated as a result of the new world reality?
This whole period has been about adaption. Due to ever changing restrictions, rules and schedules, the ability to plan was negligible. We currently live in Italy (my 4 year old son, my wife, our dog and me), my wife is currently eight months pregnant and will be giving birth in a third country (Hungary, where she is from) while I’ll be competing at the Olympics in Tokyo. On top of this I am currently training alone in Italy while the rest of the team trains in Australia. With all this, our life over the past year has pretty much been entirely adaption based to say the least.
Not to delve too far into things, as I’m sure it would bore everyone, but our training adaptions would probably be the most interesting. As I am currently training alone in Italy the fitness coach of the national team sends me my training programs, and we monitor the sessions using a heart rate fitness tracker to try and match my load with that of the others in Australia. As captain we have had to adapt with communications, also with conversations taking place online, and videos for tactics being based in the cloud.
Where do you find inspiration? What is your ‘why’?
I think the answer to this question is ever changing. But the only thing that has been consistent is the want and will to never live in mediocracy. Whatever I do I want to put 100% into it regardless of what it is, I want to get the most out of the moments I’m in. Regardless of the result in the end I will know I did the best I could with my family, study, work, sport and even rest/relaxation. Of course a large part of the why now is my family.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I wouldn’t. I’m happy where I am now and a part of that has been needing to learn and experience things on my own. I’ve made mistakes and done regrettable things but these have all helped shape me as a person, and develop. Who knows what different paths I could’ve taken if I had done things differently when I was young, but that’s all apart of living, you can make your own path.
Any tips on how the local community can get involved and support our Australian Olympic team from home?
During the Olympics we receive a lot of encouraging communications which is always nice. I also believe a lot of water polo clubs, such as my home club at Bicton Water Polo Pool, will be broadcasting the games. This is always an incredible way to help grow the water polo community and show support.
Photo from Water Polo Australia.