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Our intention was to identify the key things that our members are currently doing that’s having the most impact on staff and athlete wellbeing, and what they were finding challenging. A common thread across the discussion was a need for connectivity – communication, openness and a mutual understanding – and several of our members were already implementing some brilliant practices that we thought would be great to share.
1. Mindfulness embedded in daily practice
It is important to understand the benefits of mindfulness, not only on performance, but on athlete and staff wellbeing. One European football team spoke of their efforts to embed mindfulness in the culture and philosophy of their organisation, with daily practices has been a real positive step forwards. It allows the players and staff to become aware of themselves and provides them with the tools to detach themselves from any unnecessary thoughts and feelings. However, they also stressed the need to use context-specific language in order to attain the most buy-in and impact.
2. ‘Gratitude Mondays’
This was a practice designed and employed by a major North American team as it aim to get the loss from the weekend out of the system. It involves coming into the office/practice facility and having a physical interaction – a hug or a handshake – and expressing gratitude to a teammate or staff member. It shifts the language and attention from what went wrong the day before to what’s going right in the building. It is a recognition of the fact that human interaction and human touch has such power and impact.
3. Using systemised athlete monitoring to identify performance gaps
One British university spoke of creating or using apps for athlete monitoring, with coaches receiving daily wellness reports for athletes. Key information is easily flagged easily, and staff are able to react and get support in place quickly. Many people actually found out that once they began receiving all of this information it showed them just how much more needed to be done for the athletes with regards to their wellbeing. If this is set up for the athletes, it raised a further question: why can’t the staff have it too? Wellbeing is essential for everyone within the organisation and team, not just the athletes.
4. The use of focus groups to spark conversation
A North American college sport shared insights around its use of focus groups and feedback from its student-athlete leadership group so that the team’s leaders could start having conversations to understand what staff members and athletes want and need. As leaders, it is so important that we really listen to those we work with and understand their needs, rather than simply implementing what we think they need.
5. ‘Mindset Mondays’
As one major North American sport observed during the roundtable, a barrier to wellbeing is a resistance to learning and growing; and the major factor behind that resistance is a fear of looking bad. To move past that and create wellbeing we need an environment where people have curiosity. To that end, they implemented their ‘Mindset Mondays’, which is when an athlete or staff member contribute a quote and present a challenge each Monday in their internal newsletter. It creates a place where you are encouraging diversity of thought, and different ways to think about ideas. It generates great conversation and also increases vulnerability between teammates and staff members, which ultimately breeds connectedness.