04 November 2021
Our Australian athletes overcame unprecedented challenges to succeed at the Tokyo Games, now 20 athletes from 16 sports will help children with their own mental health and resilience strategies as part of a national program between the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and the Black Dog Institute.
Designed to help young people aged between 12 and 16, the AIS Black Dog Mental Fitness Program will be delivered by current and former high performance athletes in schools and community sport organisations around the country.
Following the success of the inaugural program launched in 2020, the new group of ambassadors includes Paralympic gold medal winning cyclist Paige Greco and Olympic silver medallist and Kookaburra Josh Beltz.
Federal Sports Minister Richard Colbeck said the Australian Government was proud to invest in AIS wellbeing and community engagement programs.
“We know the positive influence athletes can have – they inspire and motivate us,” Minister Colbeck said.
“So it’s wonderful to see these athletes spreading positive messages of mental health and resilience with school-aged children who are dealing with the increased pressures associated with the pandemic.
“As we saw during the highly successful Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, Australians take great pride and inspiration from our athletes.
“I commend those leaders who are now sharing their stories and experiences through the AIS Black Dog Mental Fitness Program. You are making a difference.”
AIS Director of People Development and Wellbeing Matti Clements says the AIS is proud to partner with the Black Dog Institute to deliver this important community outreach program.
“Not only does this program help our young people build their mental fitness and resilience, but it also provides our high performance athletes an opportunity to meaningfully connect with their community and learn personal and professional skills that will help them during their sporting careers and beyond.”
Cyclist Paige Greco, who marked her Paralympics debut in Tokyo with three medals, including gold and a world record in the 3000m Individual Pursuit C1-3, said the Mental Fitness Program allows her to give back to her community.
“Mental health is so important. I think sometimes as athletes we place a lot of emphasis on our physical health and our wellbeing, however, understanding mental health and the impact it has on our daily life is so vital,” Greco said.
“Enforcing positive psychology strategies and understanding that it is something that should be spoken about is very important to me and it means a great deal to be able to speak to young people and share my experiences.”
Australian hockey player Josh Beltz said: “I’m very proud that I’m able to be involved in a program that openly discusses and advocates for mental health awareness. As athletes we experience both incredible highs and devastating lows, so to use that experience and share the mental fitness program with kids is something I am very much looking forward to.”
“We are absolutely delighted to partner with the AIS to deliver the Mental Fitness Program in Australian high schools, at a city, state and national level,” said Karen Elliff, Director of Funding and Partnerships at the Black Dog Institute.
“Young people are more likely to take up mental health and wellbeing training if these programs are delivered by a person with whom they can resonate. The earlier these programs are offered, the more likely the effects will be long lasting.”
Schools and community sport organisations interested in a free AIS Black Dog Mental Fitness Presentation from one of the athlete presenters can submit a request via the AIS website.