Georgia Ridler (Stewart)

Class of 1992
Director, High Performance Consultant, Sport Psychologist

‘If anyone says it’s going to be too hard, they’re talking to the wrong person.’

Georgia remembers some particularly ‘hard’ moments in the formative stages of her career proving the value of the relatively new discipline of sports psychology. She distinctly recalls a meeting with Cycling Australia where she was almost expected to quit before working with a single athlete.

“It took me six months to get my foot in the door before I was trusted,” she said.

Finally, the head coach asked Georgia to assist in the preparations of a young, upcoming rider for the 2004 Athens Olympics. The 18-year-old had just won the world championships and as the first ranked competitor, would ride last in the Olympic time trial. The pressure to pull off the win as the very last rider is notoriously difficult.

That rider was Anna Meares, who in Athens, would go on to win Olympic gold and break the world record in the 500m time trial. It remains Georgia’s career highlight. Her friendship with Anna also endures.

Georgia commenced at John Paul College in Year 8 in 1988, graduating in 1992 as College Vice-Captain. A state level gymnast, she dedicated 22 hours a week to the sport before being told at age 12 that she was seven centimetres too tall to be competitive. Her skills in gymnastics allowed her to transition naturally into diving. Commitments to Marching Band (flags), athletics (high jump a speciality) and swimming, in addition to her diving training, forced Georgia to work hard and smart to maintain solid academic grades.

Georgia first ‘discovered’ psychology as a possible pathway after reading a careers feature in every teenage girl’s greatest reference source of the time, Dolly magazine.

At age 17, Georgia moved to Toowoomba to commence a Bachelor of Psychology at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). She graduated in 1996 leaning toward a career in organisational psychology over mental health (sports psychology was unheard of).

Her passion for gymnastics coaching led her to the United States, where a scholarship allowed her to undertake a six-month study tour of America’s top clubs. It was here, that she had what she describes her ‘lightbulb’ moment.

While at the National Gym Congress she listened to a sports psychologist who used terms like wellbeing, performance and growth mindset.

‘I thought – I love sport, I love coaching, and I love human behaviour – how cool would that be!’

Coincidentally, USQ had just commenced a sports psychology master’s degree (‘all the planets aligned’) and she finished this in 1998.

Georgia opened her own business the following year at a time when there were only seven sports psychologists in Australia, earning her first contract with Queensland Gymnastics. This led to another contract with the Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS). In 2004 Georgia moved to Adelaide to fill a 12-month position with the South Australian Institute of Sport and was charged with working with its water polo, beach volleyball and swimming programmes. It was also the time of her infamous meeting with Cycling Australia.

She has since taken the Australian women’s water polo team to a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic and, following work with the QAS and the Australian Institute of Sport, was appointed the lead team psychologist with the Australian Dolphins Swimming team in 2013 following their poor performance at the 2012 London Olympics.

Two Commonwealth Games, three World Championships and an Olympic Games later, Georgia is satisfied with team unity and the buy-in of athletes and coaches to her programs; programs that teach them how the body and brain responds to stress and primes them for high performance.

‘At the end of the day, athletes and coaches don’t care what you know until they know that you care. I think my strength lies in the fact that I relate to them on a human level and try to practice what I preach.’

Australia’s elite swimmers have obviously responded to Georgia’s positive presence with her very own nickname – ‘Silver Lining’.