Juggling full-time teaching and professional sport
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 123 No 4, 1 June 2018, p23
We all know that it’s hard work being a teacher, but next time you find yourself wondering where the hours go, spare a thought for Kirby Short.
During the day, Kirby works full-time at MacGregor State High School as Head of the Department of Health and Physical Education, with all the workload and responsibilities that entails. Out of school, she is a top-level professional cricketer, captaining the Brisbane Heat in the Women’s Big Bash League.
It’s certainly a challenge to balance two such demanding roles, Kirby admits: “Life’s busy! Some people question my sanity, but I think it’s a matter of being organised. You have to be super organised, and obviously there’s a lot of sacrifices that you have to make.
“It’s just about making sure that you’ve got a really good handle on what needs to be done in a day and making sure you use your time well to get it done. I’ve had to compartmentalise and learn to leave one headspace and enter another to be effective in both.”
A typical day sees Kirby doing a running session at Brisbane’s Allan Border Field before coming to school for a full day’s work. After school, she’s back at the training ground for a skill session or to work on whatever aspect of her game the coaches have requested. Most of this training is done alone, as much of the squad trains during the day.
Far from feeling the pressure, Kirby claims to thrive on it: “As much as it’s full on, as much as there are some weeks when you think ‘my goodness, I’m not sure that I can manage all of this’, ultimately, I really enjoy the challenge. I don’t think that I would get the same intellectual stimulation if I tried to scale teaching back a bit.
“I love trying to convince a kid who isn’t really in love with physical activity that there’s merit and value in it. The reason I wanted to be a teacher in the first place was for when that light bulb goes off and a kid realises ‘actually I don’t hate this, it’s kind of fun’”.
Kirby, whose grandfather was a test umpire and whose great uncle was a member of Don Bradman’s legendary “Invincibles” side of 1948, came to the game at the comparatively late age of 17, at a time when women’s sport was largely ignored. Now she finds herself at the centre of a boom, something that clearly thrills her.
“Women’s sport is a massive growth area in every sport. it’s very exciting. I sit in a unique position in that when I was an 18-year-old first coming into the squad, every single member had a full-time job and we would train a couple of times a week, starting at about 5:30pm so everyone could get there after work. Now we have girls training during the day and full-time head coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, psychologists and nutritionists, all dedicated to the team. It’s been really nice to bridge that gap.”
As for the future: “One thing that I would really like to do before I retire is help Queensland win the Women’s National Cricket League 50 over competition, that really would be a career highlight.
“After I retire, I would definitely like to stay involved in the game. I wholeheartedly believe in women’s sport, so if there’s a way that I’m able to stay involved and influence that in a positive way, whether through cricket or other means, I’d love to.”