Mim Strom was in Year 7 when she was told she couldn’t continue playing AFL because there was no girls team.
A competitive and keen sports fanatic, she grew up in her own small-town playground of Exmouth WA, and she spent her early years playing everything imaginable.
She quickly fell in love with footy as a young’un, and in her backyard, running around with her brothers, there were no gender biases stopping her from playing.
Yet she had to accept it wasn’t something she could do competitively as she got older.
After years on the sidelines watching her brothers play and wondering ‘why can’t I do that?’, she spoke up and soon became the only girl playing on their team.
Fast forward to now, and Mim is in her third season playing for the Fremantle Dockers AFLW team and recently became the youngest player in the league to reach 25 games.
Mim’s footy and confidence journey is nothing short of inspiring, so we caught up with her as part of our March series celebrating women.
“You can’t be what you can’t see.”
Young Mim wouldn’t have believed that her 20-year-old self would be playing professional footy.
“It was never in my mind that I could play football as an adult. Looking back, it's actually really weird that almost every other sort of sport, you can look up to girls playing it,” she says.
That’s what led Mim to pack up and move to Perth, where she was quickly drafted to the Freo Dockers.
“When the AFLW started, I never thought from a small town you could get picked up so quickly,” she says.
“[My mum] packed up everything to move to Perth with me. She was also an incredible athlete growing up, and I just wish she had the opportunity to play football because I know she would’ve killed it as well.”
And her hometown actually has a girls’ team now, which Mim says is “so incredible to be a part of”.
“To possibly be someone that a young person looks up to is incredible.”
The fact that Mim couldn’t switch on the TV and see an AFLW game when she was a kid, but can be an example for young women now, is exciting for her.
She says the first time some young fans came up to her at a game was an “indescribable kinda feeling.”
“In my first season, I’d braid my hair for every game and at the International Women’s Week game that year, my mum spotted two little girls with their hair braided too and joked 'I wonder if it's for you’.”
Mim laughed it off, until the young girls came up to her with her guernsey number on their hands.
“[It was] the cutest thing. I guess you think about the fact that you could be a role model for someone, but it doesn't really hit you until someone walks up to you and says, 'you're my favourite player’,” she says.
“Some girls work full days in the sun on a roof, then come to training. I don’t know how they do it.”
Mim says her career highlight so far isn't being the youngest to hit 25 games or being one of the AFLW’s leading rucks. It’s being able to play alongside “amazing athletes and getting to learn off them firsthand.”
Mim paints a picture of her team as the embodiment of women supporting women, all helping each other shine.
It sort of has to be that way, given how much AFLW players juggle as opposed to their male counterparts.
“People forget most girls have full-time careers and are working all day and then coming to training… It's long days for women,” she says.
“Hopefully one day we can get to that full-time athlete employment because the way it is now can be a massive struggle.”
“My confidence has definitely grown and that’s thanks to the Club.”
Mim plans to spend 2022 focusing on the season and finishing off as strong as she can.
Long-term, she hopes to be a leader for the Club.
Her main job outside of the game is working with the Freo Dockers to teach clinics to young kids.
“We’re teaching the boys and the girls the same things at the same levels, which is really, really cool. I didn't have that growing up.”
She has some pretty solid advice for those kids, or anyone wanting to push the boundaries in sport or life:
- Do what you love – “Go out there and enjoy it with your teammates because you love it. The performance will come along with that.”
- Learn from the people and leaders around you.
- Fake it til you make it – “Honestly, if you fake the confidence, no one's gonna be able to tell!”
- Put yourself in uncomfortable situations – “I hate being uncomfortable, but every time I put myself outta my comfort zone, I feel much better after, and I learn something from it.”
- Speak up – “I'd rather live with a little bit of embarrassment than regret.”
To Mim, this year’s International Women’s Day theme Break The Bias, is about forging the way and not just settling for where we’re at.
“We need to keep fighting and just try to break those differences, and it's going to take the support of all women and all men alike. I hope I or any of my teammates can be a step towards that,” she says.
Teri Campbell is a writer for Student Edge. You can read more of her work here.