Yale Steinepreis (2015) Paddling to Success

Yale Steinepreis (Class of 2015) lives a pretty unique life for a 24-year-old. She is a sprint kayaker, currently managing the workload of elite sport, post-graduate studies in law, and working part-time.

Yale has been selected for the Paris 24 Squad by Paddle Australia – a group of athletes across the nation targeted for the historic Games. Most recently, she won a silver medal at the Canoe Sprint World Championships held in Canada, in the K4 500m event.

Yale has also received an education scholarship from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) to help her with her studies at Griffith University for the Juris Doctor. This scholarship gives Yale the opportunity to chase her dreams of becoming both a lawyer and a competitor in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. 

We sat down with Yale to talk about all things elite sport, careers, and pursuing passions.

How did you first get into sprint kayaking?

Growing up I was always a very active kid. I participated in most sports at Santa Maria, trying all the after-school co-curricular sports. I loved sport but I got bored easily and I felt like I never had found my passion. However, my grandma kayaked, and when the opportunity presented itself to go to a talent identification day (TID), I thought why not give it a go and so I was 16 years old when I first started kayaking. My grandma was the reason I got into my sport and is also my inspiration to this day. After recovering from cancer she decided to change her whole life. She started paddling, running marathons, and doing adventure races. She went on to make Australian teams showing me that it is never too late to chase your dreams whilst also showing me that truly anything is possible.

At what point did you know you wanted to make a career out of it?

I think I realised it when I was 16 and getting to travel the world for sport then I must’ve found something pretty unique. Once making the West Australian Institute of Sport (WAIS) and getting to train every day alongside some of my sporting idols I started to feel the bigger purpose that can come from being involved in sport. The daily goals, the relationships formed and the memories made started to build up till eventually, I couldn’t see my life without it.

Yale (left) with her teammates, after winning silver in the K4 500m event at the Canoe Sprint World Championships held in Canada, August 2022.

What inspired you to begin studying law, in addition to being an elite athlete?

I think a massive change in the sporting industry these days is the promotion of well-rounded athletes. Unless it’s the year of the Olympics there is a push for most athletes to be pursuing something outside of our sports so that when this chapter of our life closes, we are not left without anything. I selected law as I find it to be challenging whilst also relatively interesting. The endless opportunities that a law degree provides and countless areas to specialise in make it an exciting endeavour. It wasn’t something I always thought I would do but whilst completing my undergraduate I came to realise that it was a passion of mine above the rest.

What was the application process for the education scholarship from the AIS?

I became aware of the scholarship through my Athlete Advisor who mentioned it could be a great opportunity. You go through a series of questions in an application outlining your sport and what this funding could do for you.

In what ways will this scholarship benefit you?

Since relocating to the Gold Coast to be at the AIS Sprint Kayaking National Centre, the relocation has resulted in my degree being three times more expensive than if I had not moved for my sport. This increased cost, in combination with my undergraduate debt, means I will be exceeding the loan cap and will need to pay some of my units upfront, which will be extremely difficult for me to do. This scholarship allows me to reduce this upcoming difficulty just a little bit, and every little bit truly counts.

What do you attribute to your success in being awarded the scholarship?

I don’t really know why I was so fortunate to receive the scholarship, but I think it comes down to being clear about your goals and honest about your situation.

How do you juggle elite sport, working, and studying?

If I’m completely honest I don’t juggle it perfectly all the time. On many occasions, I have been called into an office and told I am taking on too much. At those moments I check in on myself, and see if I believe I am getting and giving the best I can to all these three areas. If not, then I make a change to find a balance that works best for me in that current period. Sport is the priority for the next few years, which is made easier with our study and work being capped by my national body, so eventually, the balance is controlled. I am fortunate now to have achieved results at the recent world championships that I don’t need to have a job as well which also helps. I am also extremely fortunate to have the support team of my coach and athlete advisor helping me find the best balance between it all.

What would your advice be to those who have multiple passions they would like to pursue?

The best advice I can give is to find the best balance you can. When you have multiple passions, they can all be so important, but ultimately you have only so much time and energy to give. Follow those passions wherever they take you but also find the time to relax, be with your family and friends and just slow down to appreciate it all. Sometimes it can be hard to accept that maybe I won’t be graduating with my friends, maybe I won’t be making the same income as if I just worked full time, but I try and remind myself that it is an extreme privilege to do sport and to represent my country.

In what ways do you think Santa Maria paved the way for life beyond school?

The experiences I had at Santa Maria were targeted enough for me to grow academically for my study pursuits but also holistic such that when I left school, I have been able to identify and appreciate the wide range of opportunities available to me. I feel that Santa Maria empowered me to speak my opinions, especially when faced with challenges and adversity. It was such a fond time of my life, which I would go back to in a second!

On behalf of the College, we would like to thank Yale for sharing her inspiring story with our community. We wish her the best of luck on her dual career journey and cannot wait to see what she achieves next! 

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