International Women’s Day, annually celebrated on March 8th,  celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. As a leader for women in sport on the national and global stage, Swimming Australia are turning their focus to the inspiring women who work behind the scenes to keep Australia’s favourite athletes functioning at optimal level and ensuring that the sport remains accessible for all.

Their work has been paramount in preparing athletes for this year’s Commonwealth Games, with swimmers currently undertaking the nail biting swimming trials. From biochemists, performance operations to team managers and board members, the women that make up Swimming Australia help make the organisation one of Australia’s most elite sporting bodies – and are paving the way for women in elite sport.

We chatted to a few of these inspiring women who are pressing for progress behind the scenes – who tell us that having support, strong values and female representation in elite sport is not only crucial to the performance of the athletes and the future of elite sport, but for women everywhere.

Here’s what they had to say.

What is it like to be part of the foundation that keeps Australia’s favourite athletes functioning at optimal level?

“It’s incredibly special to work so closely and have a real impact on the sport I grew up loving,” says Jessica Corones, performance solutions manager for Swimming Australia. “My role as a Biomechanist means I help find solutions and ways to resolve problems that are related to swimming technique and performance. Having such a direct impact means it is incredibly important but something I absolutely love. I get to work with great coaches and athletes every day, who always challenge and inspire me.”

What do you think needs to change in female sport?

“Females just need to be given opportunities in sporting organisations, I would love to see more females in challenging and influential roles in sport,” Jessica tells us. “It was great to see Nicole Livingstone, a past Australian Swimmer, get appointed as the head of the women’s AFL last year. I have been fortunate at Swimming Australia, Mark Anderson our outgoing CEO, has always been very supportive of females and is a part of the group Male Champions of Change (MCC) Institute, which works with influential leaders to redefine men’s role in taking action on gender inequality.”

What is the best way to nurture a high-performance athlete when it comes to crunch time?

“Personally, I dealt with a lot of adversity during my swimming career. For me what made the difference was the fantastic support team that I had around me (coaches, support staff, teammates, friends and family) that allowed me to face the challenges and achieve my goals,” says Petria Thomas, Olympic Gold Medallist and performance operations manager for Swimming Australia. “When I stood on the blocks, I was standing there not just for myself but for all those that had supported and believed in me along the way. If an athlete knows that they have that unconditional support, it can ease the pressure on them to perform.”

How important is having professional female sport role models?

“I have an 8-year-old daughter and I want her to grow up believing that she can achieve anything she wants to. Having great female sporting role models shows this next generation that they too can achieve their goals if they are willing to put the hard work in,” says Petria.

What is your go to cure for nerves leading up to a big event?

“Nerves are a natural reaction when competing in sport at the highest level. I don’t believe that there is a cure, at least I never found one! What I do know though is that if you have prepared for the event to the best of your ability, it gives you confidence. If you have self-belief and stick to your ‘process’, that’s half the battle won,” Petria tells us.

How important is team comradery for good athletic outcomes?

“A cohesive, supportive team with strong team values and leadership is crucial to not only the performance of the athletes, but to the culture of the entire team, making sure we are on the right path and progressing forward,” says Lynn Fowlie, senior performance operations coordinator for Swimming Australia.

Is there a gap in the representation of women behind the scenes of elite sport?

I think with where women’s sport is now, I would hope we will start to see more women working behind the scenes in the future as these athletes go through elite competitions and sporting environments and gain that crucial experience. There is a gap with less women represented in the coaching ranks at the elite level,” Lynn tells us.

Want a career in sport? Don’t be afraid to apply, campaign and #PressforProgress to make your splash in the industry. You can be like the women behind the scenes of Swimming Australia, making waves in the industry – we believe in you!