In these extraordinary times, it can feel like we are under pressure to be many things at once – a good employee, a good boss, a supportive colleague, a diligent teacher, a good mum, wife or partner, sibling or friend. These expectations can feel overwhelming, and it’s easy to feel like we are not doing a good job at anything. Through our partnership with Suncorp’s Team Girls program we are bringing to life our Business Chicks of Tomorrow content series. We want to equip parents, carers and families with the tools they need to build meaningful connections with their teen and tween girls, in order to build their confidence, strengthen their mental health and overcome these difficult circumstances. We want to encourage the next generation of girls to feel positive, confident, empowered and ready to face what the world throws at them, knowing they have the right support behind them. To kick off the Business Chicks of Tomorrow series, we spoke to Gretel Bueta (formerly known as Gretel Tippett) – a woman who anyone would be happy for their teen or tween to look up to.
Gretel Bueta is enjoying her time in self-isolation. The Australian netball player, business owner and recently newlywed has had a whirlwind few years, with lessons learned on and off the netball court. We talked to Gretel about mentorship, confidence, netball and business.
We’d love to learn more about your career so far.
What I have started to learn so far throughout my career is that so many people, even myself when I was a younger athlete, think that a career in sport looks a lot like a slow, steady linear increase to ultimately achieve your goals. When in reality, the journey to your goals is more like strapping yourself in and taking off on a rollercoaster ride. There are highs, there’s a whole lot of lows, there’s doubts, there’s euphoria, there’s mistakes, there’s excitement, there’s injuries. And it keeps going around and around until you ultimately hopefully reach your goal. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, I absolutely love what I do. I am so thankful to have a very loving and supportive family who keep me very grounded and help to keep it all in perspective.
Since the age of 14 I knew I wanted to have a career in sport, and at this point in my life I was focused on basketball. When I was in grade nine, I went on my first under 19 Australian basketball tour to France for three weeks. I was lucky enough to compete in three junior world championships in Thailand, France and Chile, tour more of France, Italy and China, complete Year 12 and play in two WNBL seasons. No surprise to my mum, (who was always telling me to slow down), by the time I started my third season of WNBL I was forced to pull out due to glandular fever.
In 2012, four months since stopping sport all together, I took up social netball with my school friend to get a bit of fitness in while we were both studying at university. Three months later I played in my first regional game and got 13 air balls and five stepping calls in just one half of netball as Goal Shooter. It wasn’t my finest career moment, after the game I remember looking at my parents thinking, “what have I got myself into, I think I have bitten off a bit more then I can chew.” I’m not sure what kept me so motivated other than I just loved the game, it was a huge challenge and I suppose I was thinking surely I could only get better from that one. Luckily, I managed to slowly improve, and fast forward a few years I am now in my seventh year as a professional netballer, and going into my sixth year at the Queensland Firebirds.
You’re one of the most impressive shooters in the game. What do you love most about netball?
There is so much I absolutely love about this game. What I love most is that you make lifelong friends along the way. I feel so blessed to have an incredible bunch of women around me who are my closest friends. In addition, the fact that you face a new challenge every time you step out onto court forces you to want to be at your best. Finally, the fact that you hold a such a special, indescribable bond with your teammates. You see them every day, you work alongside each other. Especially in preseason when you’re on your 40th consecutive sprint and you don’t think you can go on any further, yet your teammates are there telling you can. You share the same common goal of winning a championship together, everyone is equal and has a job to do and you can’t achieve that without all working together.
What has playing netball taught you about teamwork and building relationships?
I believe sport is so great in teaching you life lessons that also help you in the outside world. Growing up I played a lot of sport, and I always leaned towards playing a team sport because of the social aspect. Building relationships and working together to achieve a common goal are so important in sport, and I believe pretty important in day to day life too. Sport also forces you to be more resilient, to show humility and have persistent in achieving your goals, which is super handy to have in the outside world too!
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How important has the role of mentorship (giving and receiving) been for you?
From the day I was able to watch my older brothers play sport, they were huge mentors to me. They could do no wrong. I couldn’t be prouder or any more committed than spending six hours of my Saturday watching my brothers play AFL. I idolised them and they have been huge mentors for me in my career. They don’t miss any of netball games and sometimes message me advice at halftime, forgetting that I won’t get their message until well after the game. My parents believe I try that extra bit harder when my brothers are able to come to a game, but I think it’s just in me as the younger sister, always wanting to make my older brothers proud.
In terms of netball mentors, I can’t go past my now two closest friends Laura Geitz and Clare Ferguson. I idolised these two women years before I had joined the Firebirds, when I was still playing basketball. When I was lucky enough to get the call up to Firebirds these two took me under their wings and brought out the very best in those around them. They led from the front, were fearless, loved to have a joke and were two of the best Australian and Queensland Firebirds Captains I have been fortunate to play under, and I feel truly blessed to have them in my life.
Who are the most important people in your support network and why?
My family are everything to me. They are huge believers in keeping us kids humble, kind and balanced. As children, they had us enrolled in piano lessons, speech and drama lessons, surf lifesaving and book club to make sure we were exposed to everything. However, we always came back to sport. Every spare minute we had we were in the backyard competing, so I think from a young age we made it pretty clear to mum and dad that this was the path we were going to go down! But family is huge for me, it’s my why. I just always want to do them proud.
What has representing Australia taught you about confidence?
I certainly didn’t have confidence when I first started playing netball, and it took a while to learn. I feared failing so much that I was always second guessing whether I should be out there on court. That second guessing definitely showed up in my game, and in my decision making out on court. I would over try and put so much pressure on myself because I so desperately wanted to do well and prove myself. When I missed out on the 2018 Commonwealth Games Australian team it was a big lesson for me. It hurt incredibly missing out on that team, but the lesson I learnt from it was that I had to take all of the unnecessary pressure and fear off myself, it was hindering my performance and especially my love for the game. Instead I need to have no expectations, I needed to stop trying to play the perfect game because that doesn’t exist and I need to just get out there and play, play for the love of the game. When I played for the love of it, I really enjoyed myself and my game blossomed. Confidence is everything.
What would you go back and tell your teenage self?
Find what you love to do and do what you love. Enjoy the journey, and strap yourself in!
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As if you weren’t busy enough with your sporting commitments, you also work in nutrition and dietetics. Can you tell us about your business journey?
Health has always been a huge passion of mine. I have my mum to thank for this one, she would always tell us why we were eating certain foods and how good it would make us feel when we ate those foods. The fact we were brought up eating a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables helped spark my passion for healthy foods, as I loved how it made me feel when I ate them. I just want to help others who don’t already know how good you can feel from eating healthy, wholesome foods. It’s super simple, yet it’s a lifestyle that is so rewarding. That’s what drove me to study Nutrition and Dietetics at Griffith University. It has been quite the journey juggling study with working full time and all of the travel netball required, but I finally graduated with my Bachelor of Nutrition in December 2019.
What’s been your biggest learning in business?
I think understanding your audience and not being afraid to ask them questions. A few years ago I joined forces with my old team mate to develop a health and fitness program for young aspiring netballers. We quickly learned that we needed to seek insight into what our audience needed and were looking for, rather than covering what we thought was best.