DETERMINED LONG-DROPPERT HAS UNFINISHED BUSINESS
THE best softballers in Australia will see a more quietly determined Verity Long-Droppert during the 2020 Open Women’s National Championship.
As a career professional and elite athlete, the WA Flames outfielder has taken time to find the right balance between those competing interests.
The former Australian Institute of Sport scholarship-holder transitioned from State under-age representative level to the senior ranks at about the same time as her Law studies at the University of Western Australia began in earnest. In a sporting arena where the “we pay to play” maxim still holds true, it was no surprise when Long-Droppert took time out in the mid-2000s to complete her degree and cement her career.
She had already racked up an impressive softball CV, winning a Bronze Medal in the Under 19 Australian team in 2007 and then breaking into the National side which contested the 2009 Japan Cup, 2010 New Zealand Test Series, 2010 and 2012 World Championships, 2011 Canada Cup and 2011 and 2012 USA World Cup.
It would have been very easy for Long-Droppert to leave the game on that high note and look back fondly on her softball days while building a legal career, especially after coming back to play in an exhibition game only to badly break her wrist. However, she discovered she had unfinished business and that her time away from the game had only made her hungrier for more achievements.
“When I came back and played that exhibition game and broke my wrist – I absolute smashed it to bits – the rehab took about 12 months and, when I was finished with that, the Nationals were set to be held in Perth that year,” she said.
“I thought I’d come back and play State. That was my only motivation for returning, but I’ve played well enough to be in the National Squad and the team since I’ve been back. “I think I now have a more mature perspective on the game.
“The game goes on without you when you’re not playing – and life goes on without the game – so I now have a grown-up outlook on the game and take it for what it is.”
As part of her re-emergence into the international scene, Long-Droppert has been working very hard to find the right work-sport balance since her return to the game. Her 2020 Gilley’s Shield opponents will not be thrilled to hear she has the formula right.
“The drive to be an elite athlete – which is something I’ve always had – reared its head. I’ve always wanted to be the best at whatever I do, so it has been easy to get back into training at an elite level, even though it wasn’t really on my radar,” she said.
“Finding that balance can be very challenging. I’m a barrister and I work for myself, so that’s one of the things that has allowed me to play at the elite level again and get that balance right”.
“I am essentially in charge of my own hours. If I was working at a firm as a solicitor there would be zero chance that I would be in the position that I am now. It’s still challenging. Being the boss of your own time sounds great but it also requires a lot of discipline. I think it’s taken me most of this year to get the balance right, but I think I’ve got the balance right now.”
Long-Droppert has no regrets about the career sacrifices she has made to play softball at the top level.
“Yes it’s absolutely been a lot of sacrifice in terms of my legal career in pursuing my softball dream, but ultimately it’s a choice I make every day to prioritise the sport I love to play while I can,” she said.
“I have a great support network around me with my family, friends and coaching staff which helps me a lot in making that choice.”
For all the self-discipline required to succeed in two very demanding fields, Long-Droppert can’t help but be excited for the future and appreciative of the potential opportunities she has made for herself – not the least of which is the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“It is really exciting. Having the Australian team qualify for the Olympics is just a phenomenal feat,” she said. “On the day the team qualified, I was thinking to myself that a lot of people from the other teams in the qualifier have just lost their chance, but my dream was still alive. That’s really special.”
In the meantime, Long-Droppert will be giving her all for the WA Flames. “In terms of my focus today, it’s firmly on the National Championships and playing for the Flames. The team is very dear to my heart,” she said.
“I just want to play great softball for the Flames and hopefully bring another National Championship home to Western Australia.”
* The 2020 Open Women’s National Championship will be decided at Mirrabooka Stadium in Perth from January 4-10.