Yolanda "Springbok" Schmidt - Australian WKN Muay Thai Champion - Q&A
FightClinic would sincerely like to thank Yolanda "Springbok" Schmidt for participating in this interview, and wish her all the best in the future, inside and outside the ring. To continue following Yolanda's journey, check out her Facebook athlete page here! - Tess Hunt
How many years have you been doing Muay Thai and why did you start?
I have now been training Muaythai for 4 years and fighting for 3 of those years. I started for a full body workout and some self-defense, but then was enticed by the challenge it offered me.
Do you have a sporting background?
I danced for 18 years, 12 of which were competitively, as well as representing my country at the Irish Dance World Championships.
On a competitive level I was a track athlete, predominantly 100m, 200m sprints and relay and netballer. I later transitioned into recreational long distance running and competitive mixed beach volleyball. I have always enjoyed watching and playing all sports.
Tell us a little about your career in Muay Thai. What do you consider your standout achievements?
Putting pen to paper allows me to realize what I have achieved. Earning a spot on the Australian National team to represent the country at the world championships is a highlight for me. Winning Female Pro fighter of the year 2015 at the Australian Muaythai Awards was an incredible feeling. I feel so privileged by the support I have had on my fight journey.
In your fight career you have won several titles, is there a particular one that stands out more for you than the others and why?
In my very short Muay Thai career I have many amazing moments. However, standing on the podium at the World Championships with the Australian flag draped over my shoulders is the most unforgettable moment. Going up against some of the best fighters in the world, it truly is something to be proud of and to place Australia in the top three in your weight division gives me the hunger to strive for greatness.
What does your training schedule look like? Does this include strength training and are you particular with your nutrition?
I have a pretty intense training schedule and outsiders see it as insanity. However, as Albert Einstein said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. I generally train twice a day to include all that needs to be done. In a week I complete, at MINIMUM, 6 road runs, 2 sprint sessions, 6 Muay Thai sessions, 3-4 Strength and conditioning sessions, 1 pool session and 2 recovery sessions (massage, acupuncture, cupping etc). I am a PDHPE and Dance teacher so this means I have very physically active days on top of my sport specific training.
My nutrition is on point, supplying my body with nutritious fruit and vegetables as well as enough protein and fats it needs. I do not starve myself for weight cuts and even eat on weigh-in days. I’m good friends with carbs and I create my eating plans to incorporate the snacks that people see as cheats, such as chocolate. However, I eat a lot of food but select the foods that will fill me and nourish me. There is certain foods I wouldn’t even touch, not only because I might be in fight prep, but simply because it doesn’t appeal to me.
You travel a lot for bouts, how do you deal with the pressure?
I have a great support network who I can confide in when I need to vent and I utilise meditation on a daily basis. My trainer, Andrew Parnham, is really good at reading his fighters, and knowing what to say and when to say it to ensure we are content. So in saying that, with anything, it requires a lot of mental preparation and self-talk. The mental part of the fight is more important than anything else.
What are the highs and lows of being a fighter for you?
The highs are the feelings of euphoria experienced when achieving a goal that has been set and seeing the development from fight to fight. Another huge plus has been the many people, from all over the world, that I have met along the way. I have truly gotten to know myself, emotionally and physically, through this sport. Muay Thai is a continual cycle of learning, there is always more to learn and I love the challenge it presents me. It has also taught me the importance of short term goals and not only long term goals.
I love having the ability to inspire or help others, which has been something I aspire to do. When you are ‘on’ you need to be ‘on’ and this can be seen as a high and a low, it’s all or nothing all of the time.
The lows would probably be things like the limited down time you have for yourself, as having a tight schedule makes it difficult to spend time with friends and family. So when I have free time I tend to use it to maintain my relationships.
Financially, being a fighter can be tricky as you have many expenses including recovery, adequate nutrition and all training involved.
Overall if I had to choose again, I’d still choose to be a fighter.I enjoy being a fighter, all the highs and lows that come with it and while there are lows, they are simply part of any sporting career.
In your opinion what do you believe it takes to be successful in Muay Thai?
Opportunity, commitment, hard work and passion is what it takes to be successful in any sport. Having heart and knowing what it takes to succeed, and to be willing to put the work in is essential for success. However, it is most definitely important to have a support network of some sort too, what good is it succeeding and having no one to celebrate it with. Ultimately you don’t only have a destination, you have a journey. The journey is most enjoyable when shared with people who are part of your ‘team’, be it friends, family or teammates. Your mind is the key tool, whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you are right.
What advice would you give other people who were thinking about starting Muay Thai or who have just started?
To anyone starting out I would first and foremost say that everyone started where you are. In the early stages some of the movements are unfamiliar but they most definitely become more natural as you go. You would need to remember how important it is to rest and learning to give yourself adequate recovery time is a skill very very important to have. Too many people feel that they are lazy if they rest.
To females specifically, you are every bit as capable as the males to be successful in this sport and emotions will most definitely take you on many rollercoasters along the way. Our genetic make-up is different, simply embrace it.
Believe in yourself and trust your trainers. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the pack once in a while :)
What was the best advice that you were given when you just started out?
When I started out I was not really given advice as my goal was simply to stay in shape and mix up my life a little as I had all my focus on dance. Advice from my dance teacher, Merryl Hofmeyr, always told me to “fake it until you make it”. While this was more meant for if I forgot my choreography in a dance competition and we did not want the judges to pick up on it. I have always carried it through with me in everything and it has taught me that all I have is the perception of myself, as you never know what others see nor can we control how they feel or react. My trainer, Andrew Parnham, emphasis’s the importance of the flame burning inside, even if that means taking a step back from the grind to have a little fun, to remind us why we started. This is so valuable!
As a female athlete have you had any challenges coming up the ranks in a male dominant sport? Has it changed over the years?
It certainly has changed, I feel female athletes were not taken as seriously and it would be a thought in the back of numerous promoter’s minds on whether or not female fights will sell as many tickets as male fights. I think it is safe to say that we have most definitely proved that we can equal or surpass the amount of tickets sold for shows.
In the earlier days it was daunting to spar the boys and to get the boys to feel comfortable sparring me. Now we have found the happy medium.
The hormonal changes and mental side of Muay Thai can be challenging to females and this shows how dedicated we are, as we continue to push through these obstacles.
A harder aspect has been how others view you when you tell them you are a fighter, implying that you have lost your feminine essence simply because of the sport you choose to partake in. In this day and age you would think there would be minimal judgment on personal choices.
You campaign on social media about domestic violence awareness. Did you want to elaborate on that?
This is something I strongly support. I am passionate about raising awareness about abuse and helping others. For 10 years of my life, my mother and us kids were exposed to physical and emotional abuse. It is unacceptable that such a basic human right is violated and too many women feel afraid to stand up for themselves for various reasons. I am aware that it is not only women and children who are victims of abuse, however due to the personal impact it has had on my life I strongly campaign in support of the United Nation’s Orange Day. So your support on Orange Day would be great! Say No to abuse!