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Amplifying the athletes voice

22 November 2019

Olympian, Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist and Australian Sports Commission Board Member Steve Moneghetti will Chair the inaugural AIS Athlete Advisory Committee and shares why he is passionate about ensuring athletes have a voice in shaping the future of high-performance sport.

Most people imagine the life of an elite marathon runner to be a lonely one. Quite often, that’s true. Up to 200 kilometres and 18 hours of training a week, pounding the road, grinding it out. And in competition, often pushing beyond limits you never thought existed.

Steve Moneghetti

The reality is distance running is a team sport. From family, training partners and coaches through to much-needed physios and medical staff, it’s a genuinely collective effort. And athletics these days is absolutely about the team.

In fact, high performance sport is rarely about the individual. It’s about a collective. And increasingly, groups of athletes themselves are coming together, singing from the same song sheet to provide a forum and platform for change.

I am honoured to be the Chair of the inaugural AIS Athlete Advisory Committee, which launched this week and aims to give competitors more influence over the direction of Australian high performance sport.

An eclectic, impressive group of 10 diverse young leaders are representing different sports, para and able-bodied, team and individual, winter and summer, and therefore a wide cross-section of those on the ground. The Advisory Committee will contribute to areas such as well-being, athlete pathways, policies and education, plus behavioural and values protocols, integrity-related and cultural issues.

I will be letting the athletes lead the conversation and, as a Sport Australia board member, I can guarantee we will listen.

We will also ask questions. We’re obviously aware of the importance of athlete well-being and the commitment the AIS is already making in this space, but is it being adequately serviced and resourced? Is there something we can do differently?

Mental health is clearly a red-button topic- and these days across a far broader spectrum. It used to be more specific; you could almost say ‘ok, transitioning out of sport seems to be the thing we’re missing at the moment’, or ‘gee, there’s this issue with that sport’, but it’s not so isolated any more.

Hopefully we’re at a point where athletes can be very comfortable speaking up when it comes to wellbeing. Having input. A voice. The athletes’ voice. Which is an interesting term.

Why haven’t the athletes always had a voice – and I’m talking about a reasoned, sensible one - when they are at the centre of everything we do? They are the sport, and sport is now more of a profession than a hobby; it’s often a full-time career, rather than something you dabbled in before you retired and got on with the rest of your life.

I’m almost calling myself a “sports administrator” now, having moved into some of these board roles and been Chef de Mission at the Commonwealth Games. But, as an athlete at heart, I hope we can remove a few of the layers of bureaucracy, minimise the politics, cut out the rumour and innuendo that’s in every sport, identify the real issues and do something about them to improve the athletes’ environment.

Almost 20 years ago, when I got to the Sydney Olympics for what would be my fourth and final Games, I finished 10th and ran pretty well. So I don’t think there was any complaint about the outcome; it was the process that was flawed, because the separation between the decision-makers and the athletes was too great.

Today, I would expect that an athletes' committee would be involved in ensuring a more collaborative and transparent policy. We’re all in this together, so we want to open the door further still.

It’s not about standing up and going ‘I want this for my sport, I want this for me’. My feeling is it will be more like ‘hey, why don’t we kick this idea around, what about we do this’, and Australian sport and Australia as a nation will benefit from that discussion.

Steve Moneghetti is a Olympian, Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist, three time Chef de Mission and Sport Australia Board Member.

The AIS Athlete Advisory Commission is:-

  • Steve Moneghetti – Committee Chair
  • Sally Fitzgibbons (Surfing)
  • Josh Booth (Rowing)
  • Matt Levy (Para-swimming)
  • Jane-Anne Claxton (Hockey)
  • Danni Di Toro (Para-table tennis)
  • Rowie Webster (Water polo)
  • Alyce Burnett (Sprint kayak)
  • Angus Armstrong (Athletics)
  • Mitchell Gourley (Para-alpine skiing)
  • Anabelle Smith (Diving)
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