AFLPA Board member Leah Kaslar has been announced as one of three recipients of the Torrens University and AFL Players’ Association scholarship. She spoke to aflplayers.com.au about what ignited her passion for environmental science; what balancing her AFLW and full-time career commitments has taught her; and how she hopes to help shape the future for athletes.

Kavisha Di Pietro: Congratulations on being awarded one of the Torrens University scholarships. What did it mean to you when you found out that you had been one of the three players accepted?

Leah Kaslar: It’s a huge opportunity!

I think that personal growth is so important, so the opportunity to go and learn more and, in turn, be able to contribute in either field of my choice – in the sporting industry or in environmental science – is huge. I’m sure there were a lot of other great applicants, so I’m really grateful that mine was chosen.

What has your study journey involved so far? From what I understand you’ve completed a Bachelor of Science… 

I’m really passionate about the environment. I’ve done some overseas travel and I was fortunate to see the value of our natural society, how that ties into our physical and mental health and well-being; and everything we’ve been provided with and the resources we get in our lifetime is based upon that. So when I returned from my travels I thought that was a really worthy place to invest my time in learning, so that’s why I chose a Bachelor of Science.

I’ve learned a lot and had some wonderful opportunities. I got the opportunity to study in Hawaii and do an exchange there as well, which was a really valuable experience. I studied in one of the largest untouched areas of rainforest in south-east Asia and learned about bio-diversity over there. They have a really great insight into environmental values and that taught me about Australia and internationally as well.

You’re now working as an environmental scientist. What does that entail? 

I work as an environmental scientist for Synergy Resource Management providing environmental services to clients in both the public and private sector. I work in a lot of remediation projects across Australia. My area of expertise is water treatment and so I work for a number of different clients in that space.

The company has worked with a variety of water contaminations from gas to firefighting foams etc.

I’m a big believer in pushing yourself to be better and so we’ve worked in developing new technology and improving technologies, as well as to remove contamination from water and soil. I think it’s always important to strive to be the best and push the boundaries of what you can achieve to get the best out of your community for the benefit of the environment.

How do you think that sport or being part of that community and team environment has helped shape who you are?

Sport has helped me build resilience and understand teamwork. It’s helped me to understand people from all different walks of life and I suppose you get the opportunity to work with really diverse groups of people. It’s definitely really important the life lessons that you learn from sport and that’s really valuable when I’ve been working with teams at work and helping to manage projects. It’s helped me to be able to understand what’s important for different people and how to work with those different groups but also how to get the best out of yourself.

What is your drive like to continue shaping the future for all young people in sport?

I’ve been really fortunate to work with some really great coaches and great people across my sporting career and that’s given me a really great experience and I hope to be able to continue through my life to use what I’ve learned from those people.

Sport provides great opportunities to gain an insight into leadership and outcomes for people to be able to live a really healthy life. The skills you develop you can use not just in sport, but in workplaces and relationships.

I think providing that pathway for young people is really important and I’m incredibly passionate about sharing the experience that I’ve gained to help continue and improve those pathways for young people in Australia.

How do you balance AFLW and your full-time work commitments?

When you’ve got so many different plates you’re juggling, it’s really important to be able to evaluate what you’re doing in life and prioritise what’s most important to you.

Understanding what is valuable and making sure that you put that first, means that you can get the best out of yourself and by getting the best of yourself, you can help others around you. I think that also helps you get more enjoyment in what you do.

It is really challenging to try to work full-time, perform in the AFLW and study. But if you make good use of the time that you have and by learning and focusing on what you value, you can really get the best out of yourself.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started playing AFLW or when you started working?

It’s being kind to yourself.

As an athlete, I found I really analyse everything and I was always trying to see how I can do things better. But that doesn’t have to be a negative process, and I think knowing that you’ve got good intentions and are trying to do the best all the time, but knowing that sometimes things might not always the way you anticipated, is important.

You don’t need to beat yourself up about it, but work out how you can move forward and learn from those lessons.

I think I understand that really well know but there was a time 10 years ago where I absolutely struggled with that balance.

What career aspirations are you hoping your study can support?

I want to be able to make a positive and lasting change to the community.

I’ve got two areas of interest – the first being sport and the second environment.

I think using my experience at community level and at AFLW level to provide an advisory level within football or another sport could really help shape the future pathways for athletes.

I’m really passionate about doing that and that’s one area I’d like to explore in the future.

In terms of my environmental science career, I would really love to have my own business one day and I think that an initiative in terms of technology around biodegradable materials, renewable energies and clever ways to provide clean water go hand in hand and are areas that are so important to us.

Being able to work in an environment like that and being able to do something that helps improve the lives of people and helps improve our environment is something that I’m hopeful my MBA will provide me the skills to do.

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