Women’s cricket has come a long way, since the first women’s cricket match was played on 26th July 1745 in England, and with the conclusion of an amazing women’s T20 World cup recently, we can soundly say that the women’s game is heading on the up, women have also taken important roles in cricket administration these days making them equal to their male counterparts, today I have with me an amazing woman who is creating history in her own right, she is the first woman ever to be appointed as an international men’s team strength and conditioning coach, she is also the first woman strength & conditioning coach in her country.
Off the field she cuts an unassuming figure, on the field she is completely in charge of one of the fittest cricketing sides in world cricket, Papua New Guinea fondly know as the “Barras” today I have the pleasure of having the lovely Meiling Choong on Cricktalk20.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Meiling Choong. I come from a mix parentage of Malaysia and Papua New Guinea and I am a mother of a 5-year-old boy named Zechariah. I was born in Papua New Guinea but moved between Malaysia, New Zealand and China for my studies, a lot of which was spent playing various sports and travelling for social and international rugby competitions. I represented Malaysia as a pioneer in the Women’s Rugby 7s and 15s team and 3 years later represented my home country Papua New Guinea in the women’s rugby 7s national team. I love keeping fit and reading books, learning new and different cultures of cooking, travelling and mostly spending time with my family.
Growing up who was your inspiration?
I don’t think I ever had one person that I looked up to solely for inspiration. I looked at philosophies and ideas, cultures and success stories as inspirations. It was only when I started really playing rugby that I began to study a lot about the All Blacks and their winning team culture. I looked a lot to Richie McCaw for his leadership skills and grit as he held the role of captaining the world’s greatest rugby team and eventually earning the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) title. Paul Chek is one of my favourite S&C icon who’s Hollistic approach to training and self-growth is inspirational.
How did you get into becoming a Strength and Conditioning Coach?
I’ve always been very intrigued in what training and exercise can do to one’s body and mind; the transformation and improvements. As I trained as an athlete, getting myself physically prepared for international tournaments, a few of my part-time jobs involved personal training for clients at a friends gym in China. Before I knew it, I begin taking courses to further my knowledge in personal training, and eventually getting into strength and conditioning trainings for youths. When I finally returned to PNG, I applied for the S&C role at the PNG High-Performance Centre working mainly with developing and national athletes.
Do you feel any pressure being an S&C Coach of one of the fittest teams in world cricket?
There is definite pressure in being the S&C coach for a group of men who are great at doing what they do. With 18 different individuals and personalities on board with all their different strengths and weaknesses and their preference to how they train best, the challenge was not to just train them to get fitter, but it was to teach them to train with a purpose and to train smart and train safe, to get not just strong and fit, but to be able to move efficiently while minimizing any form or risk of injury. My job automatically becomes a whole lot easier when a team culture is built on core values of honesty, trust, hard work, teamwork and is self-driven and everyone is committed to each other and to their own continuous self-development. I am proud to say that this is the culture that is now being cultivated and is being upheld on the daily by the boys.
According to our research, you are one of the only women S&C coaches in world cricket, how does that make you feel?
It’s a humbling reminder of how far we’ve come collectively as women in this society and how far more we need to go to ensure every girl and woman who aspires to become a part of the S&C community or profession is given equal opportunity and chance to succeed. I celebrate the thought that with this small accomplishment, I am contributing to making my country a better place to live in, by paving a way for aspiring young S&C coaches and hope that in the near future, this once male-dominated field will become a level playing field for all.
What has been your greatest achievement in your career?
Landing a job as an S&C coach for the world-renowned Barramundis cricket team in such an early part of my career. There is so much accomplishment in being on the same team as a group of people who can take what they have, no matter how small and disadvantaged it may seem, and turn it into waves of accomplishment in the international arena.
Where do you see yourself in the next five year?
I’d like to start up my own gym in my little province of Milne Bay, where the population is a mere 250,000. With the amount of social and economical issues we face daily, from poverty to high crime rates to gender-based violence and women inequality etc, I’d like to give back to my community by providing a platform where positive lifestyle choices are taught and accessible and a safe space where a few exercises a day, could be all it takes to make a change.
How would you define success?
I believe success is having the right kind of mindset. A mindset is driven on the basis of continuously and consistently seeking to be the strongest version of yourself. As an S&C coach, we emphasize a lot on physical fitness, and although training the body to its maximum physical capacity is one way to create a resilient mind, I find myself repeatedly encouraging my athletes to engage in a lot of self-talk and mind-strengthening activities because I know that even my fastest or strongest and fittest athlete will never be able to defeat an opponent with the right kind of mindset.