I spent the last three days at a conference about innovation in sports, which is usually all about cool new interventions to make athletes faster, stronger, or faster to react. This year, it was focused on well-being, safety, and performance, which is a HUGE shift. Is it though? Is high-performance sport really ready to make these changes, or are we just going to talk about them for a few years and then let the topic fade out? Is this a real ground-shifting earthquake, or is it just a truck that rumbles past our house and shakes it?

I was particularly encouraged to see practitioners of all types considering what they could each do in their role to promote well-being – for themselves, as well as for the athletes they work with. People who work in support services (physiotherapists, team doctors, physiologists, massage therapists, mental performance consultants, etc) have been either overlooked or invisible in these discussions in the past. However, if the people who are supporting the athletes are miserable and unhealthy, it affects the athletes and the overall environment. Have you ever had a massage from someone who was exhausted and unhappy? I have, and I felt awful asking them to help me when they were in that state. What’s the line from flight attendants on airplanes? “Put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others”? We need to make sure that everyone knows where their oxygen mask is and has the power and authority to use it when they need to. At the moment, many support staff have their hands tied behind their backs.

High-performance sport has a lot of work to do so that everyone within it can perform at their best. I’m hopeful that we can keep moving things forward, and that this turns out to be a real paradigm shift, and not just a bump along the road.

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