Elli Beecham is from Narooma SLSC. It’s 536km from her home to Swansea Belmont, but she wouldn’t miss competing at the 2019 State Championships for the world.
The 14 year-old has just returned from the Country Championships as the Under 15 Beach Flags champ. Unlike most other competitors, Elli doesn’t have a club coach or training squad, her Dad is her coach and together they’re seeing great results.
When she joined Narooma nine years ago in the Under 7s, there were just 40 Nippers. “Our club was tiny,” says Elli, “but over the last few years it’s grown so much and we have over 200 Nippers now thanks to Brendan and Leanne working so hard.”
Now a vibrant and active SRC member, Elli also helps out with beach training for the younger kids and with water safety. She says it’s important to have someone to look up to, especially on the Far South Coast. She loves when the kids come up to her to see her medals and ask how her training is going. There is no doubt she is already an inspiration for the next generation.
“For me, I look up to Melissa Hall who was an Australian Champion from our club. She’s now moved overseas but whenever she’s home she helps me out with training and is a great support.”
The lack of team and other competitors doesn’t seem to bother Elli, nor affect her results.
“I love the difference in the competition and higher level that you get to experience at State Champs because it’s not like anything we have at home. It’s great to see where you stand in the state each year to drive you to go harder and see what everyone else is doing in their training.”
She says that when travelling away from home to compete, one of her favourite things to do is to give herself plenty of time to watch what the other athletes are doing before their races. She uses it as a development opportunity to expose herself to as many of the elite competitors’ training and preparation techniques as possible.
This year Elli is just one of two competitors from Narooma, but the only one in the Opens. “I’m usually the only person who travels to compete but it doesn’t matter to me if I’m the only Narooma cap on the beach, I just want to give it my all and do my best for myself and my club,” she said.
“It’s so great when you return home when you have a medal that no one else has and everyone asks about it.”
So what is it about the beach events that this cadet loves so much? “I love that it’s the luck of the day and anything could happen,” she said. “Breaking too early, a trip or missing a flag can happen to anyone. It just takes a slip of your concentration and it’s all over.”
Elli’s Dad is a personal trainer and helps her work on the specifics of her flags and sprint training. In the lead up to this year’s State Champs she’s been preparing with a breakdown of the specific skills as well as cross training through netball and rugby league which she says helps with her speed and agility.
“I do a lot of plyometric work with Dad which includes explosive push-ups for my starts and weighted activities for my upper body.
“My other sports are very complementary with my beach training but we also work specifically on breaking down each section of the events. I’ve been working on the back end of my sprint race to build strength to keep pushing at the end when it matters. And knee drive is so important in the soft sand.”
Flags is not only down to luck on the day, it’s also about getting in the zone and reacting fast. “We break flags down into three main areas; the push-up, the foot turn and the drive out. Breaking it down is key when you’re training and it makes it a lot easier to focus on exactly what you need to do when you’re lying down waiting for the whistle.
“If you don’t block everything out it can take something as small as a person coughing or yelling in the crowd to make you break early. In Opens, one early break and flinch and you’re out.”
Her outstanding results at Country Champs have given her the confidence she needs to line up against the top competitors in the state. She may not have a crowd of supporters or teammates on the sidelines, nor any other red, black and white caps in her race, but surf sport loves an underdog.
Monday 25 February 2019