28 April 2020
World Champion javelin thrower Kelsey-Lee Barber is encouraging athletes to check in with their coaches and get them to ask a simple wellbeing question 'am I looking after myself too?'.
With the impacts of COVID-19 being felt across the globe, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) has focused on the wellbeing and mental health of high performance athletes and has extended to include coaches and support staff.
Rio Olympian Barber, whose coach Mike also happens to be her husband, says that while part of a coach’s job is checking in with their athletes, it is critical that this care is reciprocated.
“So sometimes the simplest thing as an athlete we can do is stop and just go, ‘are you OK? How are you doing?,’ said Barber.
“It gives (Mike) an opportunity to walk away and go ‘do I have a little bit of self-care in my day to day or my week to week?’ That’s really important because if he keeps emptying his cup, there’s going to be nothing left at some point… We need to look after him as much as he looks after us.’’
The emphasis on athlete wellbeing during these challenges times has come with a more recent development to ensure that the professionals - and families - around them are not being overlooked, with Mike welcoming the availability of the AIS Mental Health Referral Network (MHRN) to coaches and support staff.
“I think in the last two years the AIS has done a great job in putting a focus on mental health,’’ says Mike,
“Coaching by nature, it’s not just something you do. You don’t just turn up and go home and then stop thinking about.
“We (coaches) are under the same stress and we’re probably more likely to not speak out than the athletes.”
The MHRN provides access to AIS-endorsed psychologists and mental health practitioners across the country, and AIS Director of Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement Matti Clements emphasises it is a service for more than just athletes.
“We understand the uncertainty, loss of normal routine and adjustment to new timelines is affecting everyone within the high performance sporting community, and we are working with athletes as well as coaches and the wider sporting sector to ensure they have all the necessary support to get through these uncertain times,” said Clements.
For more information on the support available, visit https://ais.gov.au/health-wellbeing/covid-19#mental_health_and_wellbeing