Tammy Mahon, former national volleyball team captain spoke at the Brandon Sports Alliance coaching academy last night. (CHRIS JASTER/BRANDON SUN)
The past year has been an emotional ride for Tammy Mahon.
After the 5-foot-11 left side wasn’t able to help the Canadian women’s volleyball team qualify for the London Olympic Games, Mahon decided to leave the national program and the sport of volleyball behind. She’s had numerous opportunities to reflect on her achievements in the sport since then as she was inducted into the Manitoba Volleyball Hall of Fame and was named the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association’s female athlete of the past 50 years.
During that time, the 32-year-old Mahon, who is from the Westman community of Holland, tried to transition into a farming lifestyle, but that plan changed in December when she was offered a contract to play professionally in Indonesia.
Mahon, who served five seasons as the national team’s captain, had always been told if you get a chance to go to Indonesia then go. After talking to her fiancé, Terry Sliworsky, she decided to make the trip and loved every minute of it.
She had an opportunity to play alongside Regla Bell, a 43-year-old Cuban who has won three Olympic gold medals, lived the superstar life for the five-month season and got to travel to many of Indonesia’s islands.
"Each weekend you travel to a new city in Indonesia, and Indonesia is literally a thousand different islands, so it required a lot of travelling," Mahon said. "Some weekends we were in Jakarta, other weekends we were in other big cities and some weekends we were in tiny little mountain towns where there was no running water and it was pretty intense. Sometimes you couldn’t find food you could eat. There was no internet. It was a really neat experience."
After that season ended, Mahon again decided it was time to retire and help her fiancé operate the cattle farm they have in a remote area between Ste. Rose du Lac and Winnipegosis.
It hasn’t been an easy adjustment for Mahon, who was in Brandon on Friday to give a presentation for the Brandon Sport Alliance’s coaching academy on how coaches affected her life. In addition to adjusting to life after playing, she’s trying to plan her wedding and get used to a life of farm chores, but she’s adjusting and enjoying it.
"It’s been neat to see how my sporting career has prepared me for this transition too, to be an adaptable person and to find other things I knew I was passionate about for a long time; I just didn’t have the time or energy to put into those passions," she said. "I knew I was passionate about animals, so the transition into farm life has been an easy one. I have horses, I have cats, I have cows and dogs and for me that’s amazing and a part I wasn’t able to express for the last 15 years because all I did was play, play, play."
Mahon’s hometown is trying to help ease her into retirement. On Oct. 5, Holland will host a dinner in her honour to celebrate an athletic career that included representing Manitoba in high jump in the 1997 Canada Games in Brandon, a five-year volleyball career at the University of Manitoba as well as 10 years playing professionally overseas and with the national team.
The community even hired an artist to paint a mural of Mahon in her various sports on the side of the local rink. Diane Scott, the head coach of the University of Winnipeg Wesmen women’s volleyball team and someone Mahon has always looked up to, will also speak at the dinner.
Mahon feels grateful to be recognized, but feels kind of guilty as well.
"I’m honoured to have this night," she said. "As an athlete, it’s such an honour for me. I feel like I should be hosting the night to thank them for everything they’ve done for me."
The meet and greet starts at 5 p.m., with the dinner following at 6:30.
While Mahon is done as a player, she’s not completely leaving volleyball behind. She enjoys running camps and clinics to give back to the sport and she plans to give speeches, although that’s currently outside of her comfort zone.
She’s also a volleyball representative for the Association of Canada’s National Team Athletes and wants to coach one day, but isn’t ready to take on that role yet.
Although she’s not sure what her future holds, she’s looking forward to seeing what it brings.
"On the sports side of it, I look forward to the opportunity to keep growing in sport," she said. "I don’t think my journey in sport is over; I don’t think I know it all. I don’t think I have this huge book of knowledge. It’s a work in progress, just as being an athlete was. I think it will be in coaching or doing camps or clinics or speaking engagements.
"I wanted to have my own family for a while. I’m 32 now and that’s a big focus for me: Just essentially being content and happy with where I am in life and how I’m contributing. There’s not a big, huge game plan. I just like to take things as they come and adjust to life because I know things can change like that. There’s no point in making a ton of plans. I’ve always been like that. Just enjoy each day and keep progressing as a person and through sport as a coach or mentor or role model."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 28, 2013