Positive movement in Australian Sport
There’s reason to feel a little optimistic about the way sport in Australia is being managed. There are a few gatherings this week that hint at a change in attitudes…
Early in September, RIDE Media published a comment piece about what the real quest of Australian cycling should be. It covered a range of themes that have been raised before but concluded with the following few paragraphs.
“This year we have seen a series of new appointments for key positions: Steve Bracks, a new chair for Cycling Australia; Peter Conde, the new CEO of the AIS; Kate Palmer, a new CEO of the ASC… and, crucially, Greg Hunt, the new federal minister for sport and minister for health.
“Despite changes to funding models, despite reviews of sporting federations, despite new appointments to key roles we still see the same old notions in action.
“Apparently success in cycling – and many other sports – equates to bringing home Olympic gold medals. There’s much more to it than that and it would be great if the powerbrokers could at least begin to consider extending their vision and invest in a healthy future for all participants – before, during and after their competitive days.”
This is an ongoing discussion which essentially questions the notions behind the so-called ‘Winning Edge’ policy that the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) launched on 9 September 2012 with a speech by John Wylie.
The latest of the pivotal new appointments in Australian sport in 2017 was that of Peter Conde, who took over as director of the AIS on 29 August. And it seems he is the first of the administrators to take some affirmative action and try to ascertain what a healthy future for sport in Australia could look like.
Today marks the beginning of a gathering of sporting administrators at the AIS in Canberra where a range of topics will the considered. The aim of this meeting, arranged by Conde and his associates at the Australian Institute of Sport is “to explore the future of sport, evolution of technology, the importance of athlete wellbeing and hear the back stories from some of the country’s most successful sports leaders”.
Exactly where it leads remains to be seen but it’s a positive step forward at a time when athlete wellbeing is in the spotlight.
There has been a lot of discussion about the benefits of sport and mental health of late. It is a topic that’s received a lot of attention, and with good reason. Being active doesn’t provide a cure, per se, but it is obvious that a healthy lifestyle contributes to a positive frame of mind.
On Friday, Crossing The Line is hosting another summit in Sydney, with the latest gathering titled ‘Athlete Mental Health and Identity’. Speakers include numerous Olympians, past and present, including rower Kim Brennan, diver Matthew Mitcham, and CTL founder Gearoid Towey.
Some discussions on the agenda at the Crossing The Line summit include: ‘How the sporting world is embracing mental health’, ‘Who am I without my sport?’, and ‘Sport and addition: understanding stress, wellbeing and relationships’.
The discussions extend well beyond the premise of chasing victory above all else and, hopefully, the tired old notion of the ‘Winning Edge’ formula will soon also be reviewed by the ASC.
In the cycling realm, there continues to be an emphasis placed on the need for Olympic medals.
Cycling Australia has responded to the ASC’s remit of chasing gold in Tokyo and applied a different approach for its high performance unit in the coming years. Guided by Simon Jones, it puts an emphasis on track cycling – where there are far more Olympic events on offer – at a cost to road racing, MTB and BMX (which, as of 2020, will also include a freestyle competition at Olympic level).
We have been saying for some time now that there’s a lot more to sport than victories alone. There are huge benefits for society if you have a more active population and perhaps the initiatives by the AIS and CTL this week will help drive home the obvious message that participation is more important than having a winning edge.
Peter Conde – and the others who are part of the gathering in Canberra – please continue to have these discussions. Of course we value victory when it happens but the process of getting people to be engaged and active is what should be the goal when it comes to spending on sport in this country.
– By Rob Arnold