🏃♀️ What makes this dual sprinter & media talent an elite operator
How Nana Owusu-Afriyie is chasing a dual career as an athlete and presenter
Hey, I’m Reuben and welcome to my weekly newsletter. Each week I dig into the goals, habits, routines, and strategies behind the Elite Operators in the sports industry. All so you can accelerate your career and make an impact in sport.
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Meet Nana Owusu-Afriyie, an Australian sprinter and sports media talent. Nana has competed in six international competitions including the women's 4x100 metres relay event at the 2019 World Athletics Championships, and after an injury-prone couple of years, is eyeing off the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
Nana is also a Nutrition Graduate from Deakin University and completed the ‘Change Our Game Women in Sports Broadcasting program’, offered through the Office for Women in Sport and Recreation.
In random circumstances, I met Nana at the traffic lights leaving an International Women’s Day event this year, and since then have admired the dual career she is carving for herself on and off the track.
If you want to learn how she juggles it all whilst pushing high standards, let’s dive in.
What inspired you to become an athlete?
Watching Usain Bolt run the 100-meter final at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I was in awe of his speed and talent and knew that one day I wanted to be just like him, represent my country, and run at the Olympic games. And I have not stopped running since.
What inspired you to become a speaker & presenter?
One of the special guests on your podcast actually inspired me to become a speaker and presenter. I received a message from Rana Hussain one night, forwarding me a link to the 'Change Our Game Women in Broadcasting' introduction program. Before then, I hadn't really considered any career apart from athletics and completing my nutrition degree.
However, that introduction program changed my life. I saw myself as more than just an athlete and became intrigued by a career in sports media, speaking, and presenting. Fortunately, during a major injury last year, I had time to explore this career path, and I have loved every single second of it. I enjoy sharing stories about sports, and this time allowed me to remain involved in the world of sports even when I couldn't train.
Can you explain your approach to goal setting? What types of goals do you set for yourself? How do you manage them?
Having been injured over the past couple of years, I have changed my approach to goal setting. I used to believe that I needed to write down one big goal and that would be the be-all and end-all. However, over the past couple of years, I have learned to set small goals month-to-month with my big goal in mind. I know that I cannot achieve that without ticking off the small things first.
I used to keep my goals to myself, but I now understand that in sport and in life, it takes a village to provide help and support. Sharing those goals with others can help you navigate the best route forward.
I have goals for both on and off the track, I think it’s always good to have a balance.
Having goals just for the athletics season and training wasn't healthy for me. If I didn't achieve these goals, it made the tough times in sports even more challenging because I didn't have anything else in life to look forward to on and off the track.
Having a career in presenting and speaking has given me another avenue and outlet, providing more to look forward to. Thus, I've tried to set goals in all aspects of my life. Overall, I believe it has made me a better athlete.
What’s your approach to time management? Can you walk us through how you prepare to make all your commitments in any given week or month?
Something I have become very skilled at, yet am still trying to master, is time management. I have many work commitments, but being a full-time athlete, training, and recovery are just as crucial as my job.
On some days, I have to be at five different places and find time for Zoom meetings, so I rely on my Google Calendar to organize my life. From presenting to training, everything is colour-coordinated and noted down as soon as I commit to an event, coaching, work, or training.
Additionally, I am someone who doesn't drive, although I am aware that I need to get my license!!!!! Therefore, I also have to consider public transport travel, which can sometimes be quicker than driving but can also add time to my day. I pre-plan my week using the notes on my phone, jotting down everywhere I need to be on Sunday. This approach helps me feel more prepared and less overwhelmed, depending on how busy or relaxed my week is.
What’s the best public speaking advice you’ve ever received?
I'm a massive overthinker, and this advice has helped calm me down before a public speaking event: 'Speak like nobody's watching.' At the end of the day, no one knows what you are actually supposed to say; you are guiding them through an event. So, have some fun with it and use your personality to give the audience an experience.
Are there any particular quotes you live your life by?
"Celebrate the small wins.”
Whether the achievement is big or small, you worked hard for it and gave it your all, so why not enjoy what comes from it? Sometimes, in our pursuit of larger goals, we tend to overlook the smaller victories in life.
I recall when I partially tore my Achilles, there were numerous small milestones, such as learning how to walk again, learning how to run, putting on a shoe for the first time, and being able to do bodyweight calf raises. These little wins are the reasons I am able to run again.
So I’m gonna enjoy them.
Morgan Mitchell said on the SportsGrad podcast “Self-belief is a hell of a thing”, are there any changes that you’ve made to your mindset in the last 5 years that have helped increase your performance (in any realm of your life!)
It's funny she says that because I believe that self-belief is something that I have lacked in my sport, and I think it can really hinder performance.
I am learning that you can be physically ready to do anything, but if you're not mentally there, then you're not 100% there. Self-belief is something I'm gaining, but I have much to learn about myself on and off the track. I firmly believe that self-belief is one of those 1% elements that athletes need as much as performance, recovery, and training.
The mind doesn't always match the training and performances.
I think the first change is acknowledging that I can be better with positive thinking and thoughts about my athletic training and performances. The second change would be acknowledging that I want to be better mentally, and the third change would be seeking support and discussing it with my support team. I started seeing a sports psychologist last year, and I found it really therapeutic to talk to someone who may not know me but wants to listen and help me achieve a positive outcome and my goals.
I would recommend this to anyone, whether they are an athlete or not. Letting out your thoughts is an amazing and powerful thing. It's just as important as writing down your goals.
And shout out to Morgan!
Where do you see your dual careers heading in the next 10 years? And what steps are you taking to set yourself up for success?
I am currently trying to find a balance with having a dual career. It was a lot easier to say yes to many speaking events and presenting roles when I was injured, and my rehab was flexible. Now that I am healthy and able to compete, I find it very challenging to balance both. I hope that in 10 years, I will have found the right balance on and off the track, without having to sacrifice too much of one for the other.
I didn't think I would love anything as much as I do athletics, but having something outside of athletics has benefited my training and performance. Sadly, being a full-time athlete in Australia is not a luxury that many of us have, but I think I have found the perfect career that is flexible enough for me to do both and be the best athlete for the next season.
To ensure this, I am learning when and what not to prioritize in my speaking and presenting engagements for the 2024 season. I have slowed down my commitments and tailored them around my training and competition. Last year, I probably focused more on my speaking and presenting roles and gigs.
Having been injured over the past couple of years, I have so many athletic goals and dreams I have yet to fulfill. I can't wait to slowly check off those small goals to achieve my big and long-term goals in the sport.
I believe the most important thing is having a team around me that supports all aspects of my life and understands that both of these careers, dreams, and goals are important to me.
That’s the biggest thing that’s going to help me over the next 10 years to achieve my goals on and off the track.
What books or podcasts do you find yourself recommending often?
I'll be honest with you; I'm not much of a reader, but recently, I've really been enjoying reading autobiographies of athletes. With so many sports in this world and numerous paths to the top or to success, I find it fascinating to read about people from all walks of life and how they reflect on their careers.
Since I spend a lot of time on public transport, I love listening to podcasts to pass the time. I often listen to podcasts by American comedians such as 'The Brilliant Idiots', 'Andrew Schultz's Flagrant 2', 'Bad Friends with Andrew Santino and Bobby Lee', and 'Chris Distefano presents Chrissy Chaos'. Just a heads up, none of these are inspirational; they are just funny.
Who comes to mind when you think of the word ‘successful
The word 'successful' and its meaning have changed over the past couple of years with all the ups and downs I've experienced in my sporting career. Success isn't just about winning a medal or making a team; it's about being proud of what I have accomplished and knowing that I have done everything I can.
When I look back at my career, what I will remember the most is the people who supported me and making them proud. I believe that is what success means to me now. If you had asked me 3 to 5 years ago, I would have said I am successful only if I make the Olympics. However, as I've grown older, I've realized that there are so many amazing superstars in all different sports. They may not have made the Olympics, but they have had amazing careers in their own right, which doesn't make them any less successful.
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