Hockeyroos goaltender Aleisha Power opens up on the bottom and her journey back to the top

Aleisha Power vividly remembers when her mental health hit rock bottom.

It was 2019. She was on the fringes of Australia’s ice hockey team, struggling with being overlooked for a spot on the Hockeyroos roster.

And then a perfect storm of events blew her over the edge.

“I had a really tough relationship breakdown,” she said.

“And then I crashed my car. And then when I borrowed my mom’s car, my wallet got stolen from the car and they made a rooster and paid a spree and took a lot of money.

“It just felt like someone dumped a bucket of water on me.

“I just felt like I couldn’t breathe anymore. I thought I needed help.”

Individually, those events may not seem disastrous, but years followed for Power, in which she had relentlessly pursued a spot in the Hockey Roos after making her debut in 2017.

Hockey players stand in gates and wait for a corner
Power has now won medals at the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup after recovering from a mental health battle.(AAP: Darren England)

“[I thought] I made it now, I played for the Hockeyroos. And I really want to be in the squad,” she said.

“But then it’s like ‘nah, nah, nah’. And you can’t really commit to a full-time job or a career because you’re like, ‘What if I can make it and play for the Hockeyroos?’

“Then you’re in this mindset like, well, why am I committing to this? I don’t know if I’ll ever make it.

“I felt like my life hadn’t moved in about three years.”

The repeated rejection, cascade of external events, and unacknowledged poor mental health caused Power to experience periods of manic motivation and deep breakdowns.

A hockey goalkeeper tries to save a ball during practice
Power went through periods of manic energy and isolation as she tried to deal with her poor mental health.(ABC News: Tom Wildie)

“I’ll do anything, I’ll be that, so I’ll work my ass off to then say I can’t function as a human, I cry all the time. I put it on. I don’t want to leave my house,” she said.

Realizing she needed help, Power turned to psychologists at the Western Australian Institute of Sport.

It took her 18 months to feel like herself again, which coincided with her return to the Hockeyroos team and eventually the roster.

From Northam to the world stage

Power grew up playing a variety of sports in Northam, 100km north-east of Perth.

She moved to Perth as a teenager and went to boarding school while playing hockey.

At 16 she was selected for the Australian junior class and eventually worked her way up to the Hockeyroos.

A hockey goalkeeper tries to save a ball during training
Power has now played six times for Australia after not playing for the team for four years
(ABC News: Tom Wildie)

“The hardest part was actually breaking through the Hockeyroos squad as a goalkeeper. It’s a pretty competitive position,” she said.

“It took me four years from my debut to grind myself out to finally get into my squad and it was like finally having a foot in the door to a career playing for Australia.”

Since returning to the Hockeyroos roster, Power has won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games and a bronze medal at the World Championships.

A serious looking woman points at the camera with a hockey stick.
It took Aleisha Power four long years to get back on the Hockeyroos team. (AAP: Richard Wainwright)

But she’s also taking on another challenge, becoming an Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Mental Fitness Ambassador.

A partnership between the AIS and the Black Dog Institute, it enables current and former elite athletes to speak to high school students about mental health.

Power is one of 22 ambassadors alongside boxer Caitlin Parker and swimmer Mitch Larkin.

“I just remember in high school I felt a lot of pressure to be something, like you have to be something and choose a career,” she said.

“I don’t think it’s like, ‘Do you take care of yourself? Can you be a good person?’ gave.

A hockey goalie smiles after practice
Power is one of 22 top athletes who will visit schools to speak to children about mental health.(ABC News: Glyn Jones)

“I feel like [school was] miss the human side of school children.

“If you don’t take care of yourself and know your worth and have a sound mind, you’re not going to be successful in whatever you choose to do anyway.”

More athletes seeking help

Performance is not an anomaly when it comes to elite athletes seeking help as the revealing AIS numbers have more than doubled in four years. Hockeyroos goaltender Aleisha Power opens up on the bottom and her journey back to the top

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