Olympic hopeful Declan Stacey chats with students at Nambucca Heads High to motivate them to find their passion

Students at Nambucca Heads High School dove in with both feet to learn an invaluable life lesson today.

Commonwealth Games bronze medal winning diver Declan Stacey - a 2020 Olympics hopeful - visited the year nines to impart some of his wisdom and inspire them to dream big.

It's not an easy feat to motivate a bunch of teenagers, but Declan had around 80 sets of sparkling eyes glued to him as he spoke about his two decade-long journey to be an Olympian.

"I believe that life isn't meant to be about waking up and heading off to a nine-to-five job just to pay the bills, life is about passion," he said.

"But most people won't discover their passion in their entire life. I'm hoping that after today, I've inspired you to dig a little deeper."

Declan wasn't always a diver. For most of his life he was rising through the ranks to become a champion gymnast.

After some self-reflection he realised he just didn't have the genetic disposition to be at the pinnacle of that sport, even after winning a bronze at the junior Commonwealth Games at age 18.

The performance space was full but you could hear a pin drop as the students listened intently

The performance space was full but you could hear a pin drop as the students listened intently

"In order to find your passion, you need to acknowledge your strengths and your weaknesses," he said.

"I was great at tumbling and twisting - somersaults and backflips. But my arms were too short for the pommel horse. I knew I would never make it to the Olympics as a gymnast."

He went against the advice of everyone in the industry, left behind a full scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport, and the untold fortune his parents had spent on his gymnastics training over the years, and took a leap of faith into diving, at the age of 22.

"You should never let your peers or anyone else stop you from doing what you want to do. At the end of the day you alone are left with your decisions - you're only accountable to yourself," he said.

Declan Stacey had many of the year nines hanging on his every word.

Declan Stacey had many of the year nines hanging on his every word.

Declan said while it may seem like the two sports could be interchangeable, he initially had to start from scratch, training with the seven-year-olds.

"To go from an international standard back to the very beginning again was frustrating. Many said it was too late for me. But I set myself two goals each day. If you want to be successful in this world, you need to know that it's the daily disciplines that will get you there," he said.

"You don't accidentally make the Olympic Games. It's about little tiny wins each day, and they will eventually accumulate into you achieving your dream.

And if there's one other lesson I can teach you, it's that success doesn't look like an Instagram account - it's not pretty. You need to learn to be brilliant at failing.

After winning a bronze at his first 10 metre platform international diving competition, Declan teamed up with partner Dom Beddgood to win bronze in the Men's Synchronised 10m platform at the 2018 Commonwealth Games - two years after making the switch to the sport.

School counsellor Michelle Versluys was at the Gold Coast when Declan and Dom made their splash and said watching them win bronze was incredible.

"Making difficult decisions can often lead to success. If I'd stuck to my comfort zone, I wouldn't be here today," Declan said.

In spite of a shoulder injury, Declan is pushing through and is looking very good to realise his dream of making the Australian Olympics team next year.

Lilly McCormack, Leanna Brown and Charla Fitzpatrick were blown away by the talk today.

"I was so inspired - more than I though I would be," netballer and touch footy player Leanna said.

"In netball you get hurt a lot, but you've got to get through it - through broken fingers and scraped knees. His talk motivated me to keep on going."

Charla, Lilly, Leanna, Declan and Michelle Versluys wearing Declan's diving medals

Charla, Lilly, Leanna, Declan and Michelle Versluys wearing Declan's diving medals

Dancer and runner, Charla, said Declan had made her look at her sports practice a little differently: "He was pushed to his limits but still pursued his dream. He's inspired me to do my best all the time - but in small steps, with individual goals each day."

While horserider Lilly resonated with the way Declan was able to go against people who told him he was going down the wrong path when he switched to diving.

"Everyone has always told me that horseriding is not a sport, that I should just give up, or that it's not even that hard - the horse does all the work," she said.

"He's made me want to prove people wrong."

"Yeah, I love watching people's faces when you prove them wrong," Charla agreed.

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