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Changing the Future: “Being comfortable about being uncomfortable”

Posted: January 12, 2018

“Run from what’s comfortable, forget safety, live where you fear to live,” said a thirteenth century poet and mystic who had got tired of the familiar and the routine.

Whilst there’s no point in being uncomfortable for the sake of it, if we want the sport ourselves to grow and improve, then we need to push beyond what we are currently doing, which will involve some discomfort.

Tackling the subject “Being comfortable about being uncomfortable” at next weekend’s Changing the Future event is Gemma Fay, perfectly qualified having become Scotland’s most internationally-capped (203 times) football player, had a spell as an actress and recently took a change of direction in a new career with rugby. 

“If you are going to reach your goal, whatever that is in sport or any walk of life, I believe you are going to have to experience uncomfortable things,” says Gemma.

“A lot of times in life we shy away from things that will test us and make you question yourself because they are uncomfortable.”

Gemma admits to being a restless spirit, someone who has never sat still for long and is driven to be out there experiencing new things. 

That partly explains why earlier this week the 36-year-old began a new job as Scottish Rugby’s new Head of Women & Girls’ Rugby.  It will be a new, no doubt uncomfortable environment but she’s certainly up for the challenge.

“There have been times I haven’t been comfortable being uncomfortable and have probably made wrong decisions through fear of the unknown and fear of change,” Gemma explained.

“There have been others when I was forced to make decisions and I still had the same fear, but I knew if I wanted to fulfil my potential and goals I had to do them. 

“It was going to be uncomfortable but I thrived because of it.” 

Gemma might never have been in a rowing boat but she does have experience of rowing.  Her previous job, for eight years, was as sportscotland’s partnership manager for rowing.  

In that time she has seen the sport’s successes, particularly in Scottish Rowing’s high performance programme and she believes more is possible with the right approach.

“I’ve seen where Scottish Rowing has come from,” she explains.  “I’ve seen the potential it has and how hard people have worked to afford the opportunities to the rowing community.

“There’s been a lot of success in a short time and when that happens a plateau will come. 

“So, for Scottish Rowing and people rowing in Scotland to realise their potential they are going to reach a point when things plateau, and where they need to be prepared to move it on again.”

So, what is uncomfortable? That is a question to be answered differently by each of us.  But if we can all push a little bit beyond our comfort zones then the sport will gain massively and we will grow individually.  And in the process, becoming uncomfortable will become more familiar.

“My talk next weekend will be a cross between resilience, mindset, self belief - all those things combined into one,” said Gemma. 

“I hope to get people walking away thinking more about the decisions they make, have made or are about to make and the real reasons behind why they are making them.

“Am I more uncomfortable at being uncomfortable?” “I don’t think you ever are but am I more willing to do it?  Yes I am.”


Our Changing the Future weekend runs on the 20th and 21st January at the sportscotland National Sports Training Centre, Inverclyde and will comprise two days of keynote talks and workshops.  There will be dinner in the evening celebrating rowing in Scotland which will include the presentation of the Scottish Rowing Annual Awards. This will be followed by a ceilidh.  Bookings for the event close on Sunday 14th January.

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