I have started to interview past athletes to discover their insights on Life Beyond Elite Sport. In particular, they are being asked how they made the transitions beyond elite sport. Today, we are lucky enough to have Peggy Zaman.
Life Beyond Elite Sport Interview – Peggy Zaman
Fashion Law Consultant @ fashionlawyerette.com
US College Admissions Consultant @ Elite College Scholars
Share with us a bit about your self (i.e. your background, where you grew up and where you are now).
I was born in Madras (now called Chennai), India and moved to Australia when I was 4 years old. There was huge need for doctors in Australia at the time so my dad’s plan was to work for a couple of years, enjoy all the Aussie sports and return to India. 50 years later our family is still here.
I was an antsy and physically tough kid so always played various sports. I grew up in Sydney and attended MLC. After my tennis career, I went to Uni in Queensland (Bond University) and studied Law when I was 20. I have lived in America for approximately 18 years. I travel between America and England.
I also counsel students and help them get athletically recruited actively to US colleges for the majority of sports. This includes sports scholarship colleges and Ivy League/Selective colleges.
What age did you finish playing sport?
I stopped playing elite tennis at age 20 due to a very serious injury – torn rotator cuff. This was after incurring several other injuries.
Did you choose to retire or not?
No, I was sort of forced to because of my injury. The injury was going to take at least 6-9 months to recover from, and as I come from a highly educated family of doctors, lawyers and engineers, I felt pressured to attend Uni and study a professional degree.
What was your best sporting performance?
Asian junior #3 in May 1986 and top 20 in world juniors in June 1986.
I reached a world ranking of around 600 in the world after only playing a few satellites and challengers.
I also qualified for Junior Wimbledon when I was 16.
I won the India Women’s National Titles when I was 18
Ironically, I don’t consider these my best because I now know that I was capable of achieving so much more (which unfortunately, I did not realise back then).
What are you most proud of doing in your life up until now?
I would have to say becoming a mum and raising 3 children. Raising them to be kind, good, happy humans so that they will make a positive impact in this world whilst pursuing their passion/s. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had (and still have) yet the most rewarding. For me nothing really compares to that.
Who are the mentors that have inspired you and what important lessons have you learnt from them?
Of course my parents were my first mentors. They taught me the meaning of work ethic, equality, helping the underprivileged and treating people with respect. But I would say my grandmother who was wise beyond this world was the most inspirational mentor. We used to call her Confucious! Sadly, she passed away when I was a teenager and it took me decades to come to terms with it. I think I would have had a different life trajectory if she had lived for another decade or so.
Has there ever been times you have questioned yourself and your purpose? If so, what got you through?
Yes, many times! Even now. My faith and profound belief in God and the universe is what gets me through. Knowing that there is a life plan for me no matter which route/s I take even if it’s not the best one at the time.
Is there a significant quote or saying by which you live your life by? If so, what is it?
There was a plaque in our house on the wall that said, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”. No one really explained what that meant to me so I went from staring at the plaque and being perplexed about the quote as a child, to really understanding the profound meaning of it when I become an adult. I still live by these words every day
What was the most important lesson you learnt from being an athlete?
I always believed the most important lesson as an athlete was relentlessly working extremely hard in every aspect of the sport – stroke technique, gym work, sprints etc. But I realized much later on that self-belief and self-esteem is probably the most important. No matter how hard you work as an athlete, if there is no self-belief then there really is not much of a point and vice versa. They go hand in hand.
What do you wish you did more of when you were competing?
I wished I believed in myself more.
I wish I really understood the level of talent I was blessed with (without sounding arrogant).
I wish I had the independence to make decisions that I truly believed in.
I wish I could have had an experienced and genuine person to guide me in the proper direction in tennis.
I wish I had defied my parents and taking up one of those US tennis scholarships I received. That would have really toughened me up mentally and improved my tennis immensely.
What are your top 3 tips for making the transition to life beyond elite sport?
This is a very interesting question for me!
As I said, I quit tennis because I was severely injured and felt pressured to go to University. Actually, my dad applied to University on my behalf without even informing me! A huge part of me was relieved because I had dedicated 10 years of my life, to the sport with no real breaks or off season. But another big part of me was lost as I did not have any idea of what I was going to do at Uni. At the same time I was used to studying hard because that’s what I did all through school and I was a good student. I never really thought it was the end of tennis – I always thought I would finish my degree and go back to tennis and that’s something I regret. I really regret not playing tennis for a few more years. Ironically, I have not played much tennis since quitting.
So my 3 tips to transitioning to life beyond elite sport would be:
- quit or retire only when you are absolutely ready – do not have any regrets;
- really think deep and hard and recognise what your interests are outside of sport and how you can pursue them once your elite sports career is over. Try a few things here and there and see what piques your interest;
- you need to give yourself a period of adjustment when transitioning from elite sport to the next chapter of your life, so give yourself as much time as you need and keep playing your sport for fun.
Over to You…
I hope this has given you some insight from a past athlete who has made the transition process from elite sport. Thanks Peggy for sharing your insights and congratulations on where you are in your life today!
If you have any questions, please let me know or leave a comment below.