Sport

Jan Schultz helps drive her kids to the top

By Brayden May

The sporting success of Courtney and Lachie Schultz is well documented in Echuca-Moama.

But there is every reason to suggest their mother Jan has been the driving force behind everything they have achieved.

Throughout their teenage years, Jan was driving her kids across Victoria and New South Wales as they chased their childhood dreams.

And she wouldn’t change anything for the world.

“It is true when they say you ride the ups and downs with your kids,” Jan said.

“Courtney and Lachie have both had their share of success and disappointment, but I’m really proud of how they’ve handled themselves through everything.

“Being on the roller coaster ride together certainly brought us closer as a family.”

Despite Courtney and Lachie competing in two different sports — athletics and footy — Jan said she was fortunate there were few clashes in timing.

“Athletics took up a lot of time in summer and footy in winter,” she said.

“In that aspect, I thought we were very lucky as a family. But when I was struggling to find the time, I got a lot of support from the people around me.

“Having a strong support network certainly makes a big difference when your kids are competing at a high level.”

The challenges for Jan became larger as her kids got older, most notably in Courtney’s athletics pursuits.

When she reached the age limit at Echuca-Moama’s Little Athletics Centre (EMLAC), a switch to Bendigo was on the cards — meaning a two-hour round trip.

The move paid dividends in the short-term and long-term future as Courtney went on to run at national level, including the Commonwealth Games trials.

“If it wasn’t for our local centre, Courtney wouldn’t have been afforded any of those opportunities later in life,” Jan said.

“EMLAC gave her a place to develop a passion for the sport and that’s something she has carried on with. We’ll always be thankful for what the club did for our family.

“One of the biggest challenges with athletics is the lack of funding. Because there is a lot of individual events, you rely on your family to help you get to places.

“We were fortunate to have some friends who also moved to Bendigo for training, so we would take it in turns of car pooling.

“Until you sit down and look back at everything, you don’t realise just how expensive it can be driving one hour each way a couple of times a week.”

An injury later in her career forced Courtney to move away from athletics, before going down a different path.

After moving to Sydney University, the 23-year-old was working in a gym when she was approached and asked to play rugby sevens.

It was a change that Jan didn’t see coming.

“I never expected Courtney to call me and say that she was going to play rugby,” Jan said.

“She is part of an elite athletes’ program which has given her access to specialist coaches. They’ve helped her improve quickly.

“The coaches identified that she could be a key player on the wing and that helped with selection in the squad for the national series.

“I’m proud of how well she has done in a new sport.”

Lachie Schultz hungry for more

Schultz makes AFL debut

Like his older sister, Lachie had to work his way up the elite sport pathway in arguably a more difficult environment.

During his junior footy days, he earned selection in several representative teams and the GWS Academy.

“The first time Lachie was picked in any of those teams, it certainly shocked us with the costs that were involved,” Jan said.

“At one stage, we had to go to Canberra two weekends in a row. When you tell people about the travel you have to do, they are blown away, but it is something that you get used to.

“There are people who think that the costs of footy are covered by those programs, but it is the parents who are paying for a lot of it.”

After leaving home at 18, Lachie toiled away for three years at Williamstown in the VFL before earning his shot at the big time.

And when his name was called on draft night by Fremantle, Jan said she was just as relieved.

“It is tough when you see just how hard your kids have worked,” she said.

“Lachie showed a lot of mental strength to continue putting his name out there for selection.

“I’m proud of how much courage my kids have shown to make their dreams come true.”

With her kids now living their dreams away from home, Jan has a message for parents who might find themselves in a similar position.

“Don’t be afraid to let your kids give it their best shot,” she said.

“Be prepared to catch them if they fall, it’s a bumpy road to the top.

“But at the end of the day, everything is worth it when you know they’ve given it their all.”