Champion’s Mojo Podcast: Siobhan Haughey Benefits From Positive Mindset

siobhan-haughey

Champion’s Mojo Podcast: Siobhan Haughey Benefits From Positive Mindset

A world-record holder and multiple event national-record holder for Hong Kong, Siobhan Haughey joins the Champion’s Mojo Podcast to talk with Kelly and Maria about how she combines discipline and positivity to improve resiliency and outcomes. Below is an abridged Q&A of the interview, conducted by Kelly Palace and Maria Parker, with Haughey. You can listen to the full podcast episode #98 at https://championsmojo.com or by clicking here.

Champion’s Mojo: Tell us about coming to swim at Michigan and what it’s like being a Hong Kong swimmer.

Siobhan Haughey: My mom is from Hong Kong and my dad is Irish, so I’m mixed, but I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I started swimming when I was around four years old because my older sister joined a swim club and my parents thought it would be an important skill to learn. That’s how I started swimming. Fast forward to when I was in high school, I was doing pretty well in swimming. I’d been to a few junior international races like Junior World Champs and the Youth Olympics. I knew I wanted to continue swimming and I knew the US would be the right place for me to swim and study at the same time. I was very clueless because I didn’t know where to start and there are so many good schools in the US. Another Hong Kong swimmer, Claudia, who went to Michigan, asked if I’d ever considered Michigan. I was like, no. She’s like, it’s a little cold, but like, I think you’ll really like it. Why don’t you talk to the coaches? So she gave my email address to the coaches and that’s how we started talking. Through all the Skype calls and the emails, I realized Michigan seemed like a pretty good place. They have an amazing swim program and also it’s a very good public school. Then, one day, the coaches were just like, do you want to Skype with the team and the swimmers there and see what they’re like and get the vibe of the whole team. It was an amazing call. I instantly felt a connection with the whole team

Champion’s Mojo: Are you a big celebrity in Hong Kong?

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Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

Siobhan Haughey: I wouldn’t say that. I don’t really like the spotlight so I think people just know me through my results. For the last five years or so I was in the US, and wasn’t always in Hong Kong. I was only in the news if they were showing my results or something. People who follow sports kind of know me, but it’s not like everyone knows me if I’m out on the streets. Maybe it’ll happen like once or twice, but not often. I kind of like that balance.

Champion’s Mojo: Tell us about your swim leading off the 400 free relay in the ISL and what it feels like to be on a world-record setting relay.

Siobhan Haughey: I was just really excited. I always love relays and I think the four by one free relay was the first event of the meet. It’s the finals and, you know, I’m nervous, but I’m also really excited because I always love relays. I know that, apart from me, the three other girls behind me all just want to swim fast and have a lot of fun. I think all the nervousness and adrenaline kind of pushed me and made me a lot faster. When I dove in, I didn’t think about anything. I just wanted to swim really fast and get my hand on the wall first. I wasn’t really focusing on the time. It’s really cool that our relay broke the world record because I know my chances of doing that with the Hong Kong team is very slim. It’s a pretty amazing feeling to tell people that you broke a world record. I did it with three other amazing girls from Energy Standard and it’s amazing that we all did that together.

Champion’s Mojo: How did you handle not winning the 100 free later in the meet after swimming so fast on that relay?

Siobhan Haughey: I think after swimming the 50.9, there was definitely expectations from myself and from other people that I should win the 100 free. I think that might have affected me a bit because the 100 was on day two. I had like two events on day one, including the relay. The 100 free was the first event of day two. I was a little tired from the first day and also I was just a little nervous. I don’t want to try and find excuses, but I dove in and my left goggle started filling with water. You can’t really control that. I don’t want to say that’s the sole reason why I didn’t win. I think detail wise, there are things that I could have done better. I think it’s just a learning opportunity. You don’t always go in and swim the best time and win every single race you go to. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t win and I wasn’t really happy with the time, but I had two other races that day so I really had to just move on and focus on my next events because I had to swim like three events in an hour and 15 minutes or so. There’s no point lingering on a disappointing event or a disappointing race. I know I have to focus on my next races because our goal for Energy Standard is to win the ISL, score as many points as possible, and to swim as fast as we can. That’s what I try to do. I think mentally it’s pretty challenging sometimes to come back from a disappointing race. You just have to learn and to tell yourself to stay focused and stay positive and just move on.

Champion’s Mojo: How does being part of a team impact your swimming?

Siobhan Haughey: I think it definitely impacts my training and my swimming in so many ways. Before going to Michigan, I was training in a club team in Hong Kong and I was the oldest. I was training with a lot of younger swimmers so I never really got the whole team aspect of swimming. I feel like while I was swimming, it was very individual and I was just doing it for myself. One of the main reasons why I went to Michigan was because of the whole team aspect and the whole team atmosphere. It made me realize how important that is when you’re training, especially when you’re going through really hard training phases or really hard sets. There were so many times where I just wanted to give up halfway through the set or I thought that I couldn’t swim any faster but my teammates came in and they’re always there to support you and cheer for you. You’re all going through this together and you never want to let your teammate down. It’s always great having teammates there. They just cheer for you and you know that no matter what happens, they’re always there and we’re all in this together.

Champion’s Mojo: Tell us about your training situation in Hong Kong and preparation for the Olympics.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Siobhan Haughey: I graduated from Michigan in 2019 and since then I have been training with Michigan. Unfortunately, with the pandemic, I had to come back to Hong Kong in June this year because pools in Michigan were closed. The public pools here in Hong Kong are closed, but we have the National Team pool at the Hong Kong Sports Institute. I’ve been training there since June. I know I’m very fortunate because I know a lot of people don’t have access to any pool or any gyms. I’m one of the few lucky ones who have all of these facilities. I’ve been training there with my coach at Michigan sending me practices every day. I have a coach here who kind of supervises us. We have a small training group here with like six of us. We all just do the same set and we train around ten sessions a week. Every morning Monday to Saturday, and then doubles on a few days in the afternoon. We go to the gym to lift three times a week and we do some land training like yoga classes too. I’ve already qualified for the Olympics so far in the 100 and 200 freestyles and the Hong Kong team has also qualified in a few relays. I think they’re still deciding who will be on the relay so I don’t know if I’ll be on them. As for my training moving forward, as of right now, I’ll still be in Hong Kong because I’m not quite sure what the situation in the US is like right now. I have great training partners here. I have the pool. I have the gym. So so far everything’s been working well. I think for the most part, I’ll stay here. Of course, I hope to go back to the US because my coach is there and sometimes it’s a little hard when he can’t be there to train me and coach me and he can only send me workouts, but I don’t think I could really plan a lot of things, especially the first half of this year. For the most part, I’ll just be in Hong Kong.

Champion’s Mojo: How have you kept your mental game strong training with your team in Hong Kong versus your team in Michigan or Energy Standard?

Siobhan Haughey: I’ve always thought the mental aspect of training and racing is very important. I studied psychology in college, so I’m always very interested in how the human minds work and how your mindset affects everything. I think training in Hong Kong is going well because it’s kind of like a new environment for me. I’ve been training in Michigan for the past five years and I really like my teammates. They’re all great. I feel like after five years, it’s kind of nice to have a little bit of a change. Even though I’m still doing my coaches sets and workouts, I’m training with new people and everyone has different personalities. Back in Michigan, I was mainly training with the women’s team. Here I’m training with guys and girls as well. It’s nice racing with the guys because they’re faster. I want to try and catch them and keep up with them. I think sometimes you just have to keep things fun and interesting just to give yourself more motivation to move forward.

Champion’s Mojo: What is your favorite event and what strategies do you use for your different races?

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Siobhan Haughey: The 200 free is my favorite. I never really swam the 200 free until I got to college. I was more of a 50 and 100 swimmer, but my coaches realized I had the endurance to do the 200 so I started doing that. I have definitely seen the most improvement in my 200 throughout the years. I think that’s why I’m able to do the 100 and the 400 as well, because I kind of have the natural speed. It’s also, especially during a training phase, nice to swim the 400 free because you need the endurance to come home. When I was at the ISL, I was only expecting to swim the 50 and 100 free, but a few days before our first match, the coaches came up to me and they said, Siobhan, you might have to do the 400. I think swimming it worked out pretty well. I can’t say it’s my favorite event because it gets pretty painful, but it’s good training for my 200. I just need that endurance.

Champion’s Mojo: What are your thoughts on swimming after the Olympics and being a pro swimmer?

Siobhan Haughey: That’s something that I thought of a lot. I always thought I would be done with my career in 2020 after the Olympics. With the pandemic, everything kind of changed. I really enjoy swimming. I had so much fun and it’s a great opportunity to race and to meet new people and to travel around the world. I think this year really made me realize that I can’t plan everything in my life. I’m always someone who loves to plan and organize things and have things listed out. This year made me realize sometimes I have to go with the flow and I can’t plan everything. So I’m definitely aiming for the Olympics next year and I’ll see how I feel after. I’ll most likely go on swimming for another season of the ISL. Especially so many meets like Short Course Worlds coming up. I’m someone who loves to race so I would like any opportunity I can get to do that. I think there’s a lot of factors affecting how long my swimming career will last. Eventually I want to go back to grad school to become a clinical child psychologist. I don’t know when that will happen, but it’s definitely something I’ve been thinking about and something I’m planning on pursuing after swimming.

Champion’s Mojo: What are you thinking about when you’re in a painful (period)?

Siobhan Haughey: When I’m in that stage in training versus in racing I think two different things. If I’m training and I’m dying a lot, I think about the fact that I’ve done this, or something similar, before. If I made it through that I can make it through this as well. This isn’t something new and I can keep going. In racing, I think about how badly I want this. How much do I want to win this race. About how I’ve worked so hard and I’m not going to give up now. I kind of think different things when I’m in different situations. For me, I just have to find ways to motivate myself and keep going.

Champion’s Mojo: What are your greatest assets as a swimmer and person?

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Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu / ISL

Siobhan Haughey: I think a lot of people would say that I’m very disciplined and very focused. Once I have a goal in mind, I don’t give up very easily and do everything I can to achieve it. On the other hand, even if I don’t achieve it, I’m a very positive and optimistic person. I know that as long as I tried my best, that it’s ok if I don’t make it.

Champion’s Mojo: Have you developed those traits?

Siobhan Haughey: I think just being in Hong Kong helped. We have a very rigorous education system and I was training a lot since a young age. I know how to have good time management to know what I need to do. It’s not something that I just woke up with. It developed over time.

Champion’s Mojo: How about positivity and optimism. How did those develop?

Siobhan Haughey: I think I was just lucky to have people around me that were optimistic and positive. I think I absorbed it from my parents, sister, coaches, and teammates. You see your teammates and friends being so positive and you don’t want to be the only negative person in your friend group. You learn to stay optimistic and just send out good vibes.

Champion’s Mojo: What qualities would you like to improve on?

Siobhan Haughey: I think sometimes I’m not very assertive. I think sometimes it’s hard for me to make a decision and know what I really want to do. I feel like this is more applicable in life than in swimming, but I always want to please everyone, so it’s hard for me to be assertive and tell people what I really want. I think I need a bit more practice in that area. I think for the most part, I really have to think about it because I never want to make the wrong decision. I want to be very careful and I’m very logical in my thinking process and make sure that I make the right decisions.

Champion’s Mojo: What characteristics do you think champion’s share?

Siobhan Haughey: I think a lot of champions are very positive. On Energy Standard we had so many great swimmers and everyone’s so positive. Even if they don’t have a good race, they learn from their mistakes or that race and they move on. I’m sure sometimes they might be disappointed with the races, but the most important thing is that they go back to the video and see what they can work on and where they can improve. Even if they didn’t have a good race and they know their teammate did, they would definitely go and congratulate them and support each other. I think being positive is definitely a huge characteristic that a lot of people have.

Champion’s Mojo: Have you had any obstacles you’ve had to overcome in your life?

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Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

Siobhan Haughey: Yes. Especially in my swimming career. On training trip in 2017, my foot started hurting during practice on New Year’s Eve. I didn’t want to stop because it was the last practice of the year. I kept going and I started going slower and slower and slower. The coach stopped me and asked what was going on and I just like my foot hurts and I don’t know what’s wrong. After that I went and saw a few doctors and got an MRI and x-rays. No one knew what was happening, but the pain kept getting worse. I couldn’t finish a full two hour practice and I could arely walk. I had to wear boots at all times and we weren’t even sure I could race at Big Tens. I was like, no, we need the points to win the Big Tens. Then, at NCAAs, we weren’t sure if I was going to swim. The coaches had to pull me off some relays to reduce the stress on my foot. The pain was so unbearable and we didn’t know what was wrong or how to treat it. It was very frustrating to me. I had the Asian Games in the summer of 2018. My coach and I decided that I should take the summer off and not train or compete. That was really hard because I had to tell the Hong Kong Federation that I couldn’t go. Luckily they were really understanding. I basically didn’t train for nine weeks that summer. While the Asian Games were happening, I was watching on TV thinking I could have gotten first or second. It’s really hard knowing that you should have been at that meet but can’t. It was really frustrating that summer because I saw, I think 15 doctors. I did a ton of tests and we have no idea what was going on and we still really don’t. It was really hard at the time because I was just trying to find an answer to what was happening and how to treat it. Now I’ve kind of taken a step back and accepted the fact that it will probably never get better. I can do a lot of things to manage the pain. I know I shouldn’t push myself too hard at every session. I know now when the pain is about to come so I can tell my coaches that I need to stop. That was kind of one of the biggest obstacles in my swimming career where I had had to deal with an injury and I had to sit out of a few competitions.

Champion’s Mojo: What is your mindset towards this sort of chronic pain that you have to deal with?

Siobhan Haughey: I think, when this first started three years ago, I thought it was just going to get better. Like one day it would go away. I waited so many months and it never got better and kept getting worse. It really bothered me a lot. It created a lot of stress because there were nights I would cry myself to sleep because I was thinking, why won’t this get better? Slowly I began to change my mindset to think that, maybe this is something that will be here forever and I have to deal with it. I work closely with my physio and we do rehab and some pre workout exercises. It’s not really going to get the pain away, but it kind of delays the pain when I’m training. After every training session I have to sit and do some treatments to relieve the swelling and pain. I think the biggest change that I thought was the most helpful was definitely changing my mindset. It’s only then that I can not stress about finding a cure and finding the next doctor to do the next test. It’s definitely hard to do, but, as an athlete, you deal with injuries all the time and they’re part of the career.

Champion’s Mojo: How has that mindset impacted your swimming?

Siobhan Haughey: It affects me immensely in a different way. I’m always someone who thinks I just have to keep going and keep pushing myself because, you know, I can never take breaks. I think having this foot injury really made me realize that sometimes I just need to take a step back and take a break because it’s my body telling me that I need it. With this foot injury, I typically can’t finish a full kick set. Our kick sets are normally around 2,000 yards, but around 1,000 my foot starts to become really tight and still. If I keep going, it starts hurting. My coach knows this 1,000-1,500 is all I do. When we go through really hard training, that’s when my foot also starts to hurt a lot more. We definitely communicate a lot. I tell him how my foot is doing every day so we can adjust our training because of that. With racing, if I do a lot of races in a very short period of time, that’s also when my foot hurts a lot. I make sure I’m on top of my recovery and doing everything I can to minimize the pain or help with the pain and the swelling. I think this injury also made me be more aware of how my body is feeling and if I need to train more or less. I’ve become more intune with my body and what it’s telling me.

Champion’s Mojo: Thank you for being with us today and best of luck!

Siobahn Haughey: Thank you for having me!

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