As a high school athlete, Jackie Gallagher had the world at her feet. She was in a unique position where she was excellent at any distance from 100m to 800m. She broke Queensland and National records and was regularly selected for State and National teams. Jackie was selected for the Australian Youth team to compete at the World Youth Championships in Canada as an U18 along with the Australian Junior Commonwealth Games and the Youth Olympics, before making the U20 Australian team to compete at the World Junior Championships in Italy and China.

“I loved feeling fast and powerful and winning,” reminisced Jackie.

“I loved training and everything about running. This was my thing; I knew I was good at it and it made me feel strong and powerful. I loved it because it was mine.”

Jackie was well on her way to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but the desire got the better of her. She went against the advice of her coach and her father and started to overtrain and developed tendinopathy in her achilles. With her body overcompensating for the pain, Jackie tore her quad muscle, and her Olympic dream and promising running career was over.

“I tried to come back from the injury, but I had so many setbacks it was frustrating and heart breaking, it got to the point where I couldn’t even look at the sport,” reflected Jackie.

“It was devastating. I had an identity crisis. Everything that made ‘me’ was gone. I was such a different person as an athlete to what I am now. You don’t compete against others in life, so I had to reassess who I was and my values.”

She focussed on completing her Bachelor of Secondary Education majoring in English Literature and Physical Education at the University of Southern Queensland. In 2011, Jackie was asked to coach at Fairholme College which worked well with her studies, and she thoroughly enjoyed it until her graduation in 2013. With her qualifications complete, Jackie was quickly snapped up by The Glennie School as an English and PE teacher and athletics coach and after twelve months accepted a similar role at Toowoomba Grammar School.

“TGS has supported me, given me the opportunity to follow my athletics path and encourage me to do things that I was nervous to try,” Jackie said gratefully.

“It took quite a few years to find myself again, but I realise how much I love coaching and teaching and being a positive role model.”

And the passion, determination and drive that she possessed as a competitive athlete hasn’t wanned as a coach. She’s committed to learn more, attend courses and gain qualifications that will assist her athletes to be the best they can be.

With that philosophy, Jackie has attained a Master's Degree of Sports Coaching (University of Queensland), she is a Team Coach for the Australian under 18 Oceania Team and a Team Coach for the Australian under 23 Team, she is a Queensland Academy of Sport supported coach for 2022-2024, she was selected for the Australian Institute of Sport Coach Elevate Course run in conjunction with LaTrobe University and has been selected for the Athletics Australia Women in High Performance Coaching Program. On top of all that, Jackie has also just started to study Sports Psychology through the University of Adelaide aiming for a Graduate Diploma in Psychology.

“I always want to be ten steps ahead, so I need to take up every opportunity that I can,” Jackie stated.

“Participating in High Performance workshops and other programs from Athletes Australia really helps improve my skills and qualifications. They have some great mentors who are internationally successful coaches. I love it, I want to do everything I can to be the best I can for my athletes.”

Jackie currently has 30 athletes under her wing, along with coaching the Toowoomba Grammar School Track & Field team. She stepped down as the TGS Director of Athletics at the end of last year (2022) to concentrate on her high-performance coaching.

“My priority now is mentorship,” said Jackie.

“I learnt so much from my experiences and I can recognise my personality traits and behaviours in some of my athletes, so that’s really beneficial in guiding their training so that they don’t make the same mistakes that I did.”

She has the added experience of competing internationally, the pressure of representing her country on the world stage, the impact of travelling, nerves, race tactics and the politics involved with high level sport.

“I feel like I can offer my athletes everything,” Jackie said.

“I know how hard it is to find a good coach and how special that relationship is. I appreciate that massive commitment; it’s so much more than just running fast.”

In her short time coaching, Jackie has already experienced success with promising young athlete Jai Gordon (TGS Old Boy 2019-2020). He won his first Australian title in March 2022 and was just 0.01 second off the Australian U20 100m record and was ranked eighth in the world for the U20 100m. Jai was selected in the Australian World Junior Team and Australian Open Relay Squad, and they are preparing for the 2024 Olympics.

“I’m so proud of Jai and his achievements,” beamed Jackie.

“It’s what I’ve always wanted, and I am so very fortunate to have an athlete who has the talent and is so coachable.”

But it’s not all about reaching the pinnacle for Jackie. Her main aim is to create a safe space for her athletes.

“I want to encourage them to come to training because they love the environment,” said Jackie.

“I make sure they know how to get along and support each other. I want to create a culture where it’s safe and people want to come whether they’re elite athletes or not; they come because they feel valued, safe and respected.”

To hear Jackie talk so passionately about coaching and her future dreams, it’s hard to imagine that she could have ever given up. There’s a buzz that radiates from within and she lights up with enthusiasm. In hindsight, that fateful and devasting injury wasn’t the end of her running career after all. It just set her on the path for a different, and possibly more fulfilling role, but she was always going to make it to the top!

Jackie Gallagher with star athlete, Jai Gordon

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