This month’s RockStar is Yolanda Schmidt. Born in South Africa, the now Aussie is making a big statement in the sport of MuayThai. In 2015 she was named Australian Pro fighter of the year, most inspirational fighter of the year in 2016, she has won multiple national titles, and represented Australia at the World Titles in Sweden, 2016 and Bangkok, 2015. We hope you enjoy learning a little more about her story.
We always love to know what your favourite colour RockTape is and why?
The turquoise argyle and the tiger tape. Turquoise is my fav colour so I would go for it first. I also did highland (Scottish) and Irish dancing and the pattern makes me think of our kilts. So it brings many memories back when I use that tape. Second, the tiger one looks fearsome. I love using two different designs when I tape, so that it stands out. I ensure I always have various patterns to mix and match, and at times I colour coordinate my wardrobe subconsciously.
Your background before taking up MuayThai is dance. Firstly, what type of dance? Secondly, what aspects of your dance training carried over to fighting and helped you progress so quickly?
Irish, highland, contemporary, ballet, hip hop, jazz and classical Indian dance styles. Although my balance is still not the best, balance, coordination and flexibility have been the positive transfers. However, hip and hamstring injuries from dance have also carried over to negatively impact my muaythai. The most positive transfer would be that both dance and muaythai take dedication, hard work and discipline to make it.
What does a typically training week schedule look like for you?
It all changes depending on how far out from a fight I am. Now I don’t have a fight so I do 3 weights sessions, 5 road runs and 5 muaythai sessions a week. I’m looking at 15-20 hours of training a week. When in fight prep I double the road runs, add in sprint sessions twice a week and the structure of my weights sessions are adapted too. Then you’re looking at 20+ hours a week of training. I fit this in around coaching after school sport and dance, teaching muaythai, as well as my full time day job.
The weight classes for fighting are very strict. What does your diet look like in the lead up to a fight? Any particular foods you celebrate with after the fight?
Peanut butter is my all time favourite and I can’t be left unattended with a tub! However, I’m not a junk food person, so I celebrate simply by not watching my portion size – the foods remain the same. I would have to say a treat after a fight is ice cream, it’s become tradition with my trainer that he gets me an ice cream if I win.
Your nickname is ‘Springbok’ which is a nice link to your home country of South Africa. Is there any additional significance of your nickname for you?
Well, Andrew Parnham, my head trainer, gave that name to me so that in its own is significant. Springbok, as an animal, is known for its speed and agility and I aim to continue to improve those aspects of my performance. I also have a Thai fight name, given to me by the owners of Santai Muaythai in Chiangmai, Dtawaan. The meaning is sweet eyes, something to do with the shape of my eyes.
As a female athlete and fighter, you are in a rare position to influence and be a role model to young women. What messages do you try and impart to other females who look up to you?
I’m very fortunate to have a great opportunity, in that I am a PDHPE teacher, so I show females every day that hard work can go a long way, in any field, regardless of your gender. I also try and impart that we are unique, we are just as capable as any, in any sport, and you need to love what you do, regardless of what that is. Fearing the unknown and being afraid to take a step in achieving a goal will keep you safe, but hold you back. So give it a go and ask for advice from those you look up to. They are all more approachable than you think and will gladly assist. Most importantly I try to impart that overall well-being is of utmost importance. We have one body and one life and to allow each aspect to blossom to its maximum potential, we need to be smart with our choices.
Not many people realise that representing Australia on the world stage comes with all of the training commitment of being a professional athlete, but little to no funding. You are both a high school teacher and a coach. What are some of the challenges with holding down a career and being a full-time athlete at the same time?
Often my students ask the question ‘Miss, if you’re a professional athlete then why do you teach, isn’t fighting your job?’ Yes it is, however there is no funding in our sport. On both occasions that I went to the World championships, we did not receive funding for flights, accommodation and other expenses. This is why I was unable to attend the World Championships in Belarus this year. It ends up costing 5 months worth of rent to represent your country once. We look for sponsors to help with the financial outlay of our training, nutrition, wellbeing, recovery, and at times flights, however many companies are reluctant to offer monetary sponsorship.
Challenge number one is time. Energy and stress levels are a challenge because you want to give 100% to your work and day-to-day commitments, and then ensure you are also able to give 100% when you arrive at training. Challenge two is the financial strain due to all the expenses that come with ensuring overall well-being as an athlete. Also, taking the time off from work to fly international or interstate to compete means no work and no pay. Lastly, you have to sacrifice going to a lot of social and other events due to training commitments.
I love my sporting career and I would absolutely love to put all my energy and focus into my sporting career but it definitely comes with some significant challenges.
The media loves to show the rivalries between fighters in the lead up to tournaments. We are wondering what goes on behind the scenes with the other women – are you really rivals or closer to friends?
Well in my opinion it is more specific to the sport than gender. Rivalries and ‘deed’ exists more in the UFC and MMA world. Let’s be real, the drama is entertainment to sell tickets. In muaythai we are super respectful of our opponents, we acknowledge their hard work and their skill. I personally have only ever had one opponent who I would say didn’t have the level of sportsmanship I would expect. I smile at weigh in and generally chat to my opponent after a fight. I wouldn’t call her up for coffee before a fight, but we don’t wish ill on each other. The fans want the beef more than we would.
I’m sure that mentally, fighting is an extremely difficult sport. What does your mental preparation for a fight look like?
My mental preparation is more important than the physical training. I spend weeks on self-talk, visual boards and meditation. On the day, I meditate and listen to a specific playlist which has only changed slightly since my first fight. Once I arrive at the venue it’s a lot of visualisation and simply calming my nerves, hence the specific playlist. The songs are ordered to raise and lower the performance arousal levels at different stages of my playlist. I have never analysed an opponent’s fight videos prior to a fight.
And what kind of self-talk do you use during a fight to keep you focused, and to continue to perform through pain during a fight?
I’m not really talking to myself at all, I’m listening to my trainers who are talking to me from my corner, and at times her corner. If I am in pain I remind myself how hard I’ve trained for that specific moment and how much I want it.
Do you have any upcoming fights or tournaments? What’s the next big goal for you?
I am Currently in ‘World MuayThai Angels’ tournament which has been quite disorganised. Round one was in April and we turned down multiple fights based on the date of round two. Since then it has been postponed twice. So turning down fights this year has not been ideal for me. At the moments round two is scheduled for November or January (yep that really narrows it down). I have also taken an Australian Title fight to be held in November, in Queensland. This is out of my weight class, 3-4 kg more than my fight weight, but at the moment a fight is a fight, I have been way to inactive for my liking.
My next big goal is getting into UK or America to make a name there too. My coach and I are looking for international fights. I also want to continue generating awareness of health – overall health not just the physical aspect – and promoting muaythai among women and young people.
Lastly, I wish I had some moves when I was battling with my brother on the living room floor growing up. Any tips or moves for young girls looking for the upper-hand when fighting their brothers?
Ha ha ha, I’ve never been a physical person in that sense, so didn’t use fighting to settle our sibling disputes. Perhaps to both be in some form of combat sport and settle it with a light, padded spar. The best option would be to come join our classes to get your frustration out through training instead. Like I tell my school students, I keep it in the ring. I would never give anyone the idea to settle a sibling debate in this way!
Where can people follow your journey online?
Instagram and Twitter: @landa_yolo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/yolanda.ptj (Yolanda Springbok Schmidt)
YouTube: Yolanda Schmidt