Athlete Wellbeing Paramount Amid Lockdown

As it became clear that Tokyo 2020 would be postponed for 12 months, the news hit hard to all involved in high-performance sport; most notably athletes who had already earned a quota spot, and those just inches away from realising their childhood dream.

While the gymnastics community put our arms around those directly impacted by such decisions, GA’s High-Performance team worked tirelessly to provide support and care to all athletes; none more-so than Athlete Wellbeing & Engagement Manager, Kim Gray.

A relatively new member of GA, Kim has had a whirlwind of an introduction to the sport of gymnastics, entering the organisation in early 2020.

Working closely with National Squad athletes from the four Olympic gymsports, categorised and non-categorised, Kim has worked around-the-clock to provide much-needed guidance, comfort and support to athletes as they have navigated their way through isolation and life without routine and structured, organised training.

“While my introduction to the sport was certainly abnormal, being able to provide support during this unsettled time to our athletes and HP coaches (in conjunction with Michelle de Highden), has been very rewarding” Kim said.

As the athletes settled into what would soon become their new norm, Kim, alongside Gymnastics NSW Athlete Wellbeing Manager, Katrina Mulachy, conducted weekly check-ins with all junior and senior gymnasts within the High-Performance program, providing important advice and tips on how best to adapt to the change, while also monitoring any potential issues and assisting athletes with appropriate supports.

This includes categorised athletes and coaches accessing trained psychologists in the Mental Health Referral Network, a service which has been extended to all HP staff, friends and family of eligible recipients and qualified career practitioners in the Career Practitioners Referral Network.

While Kim imparted her wisdom, she was often joined by subject experts or role models, like Olympic gold medallist and former gymnast, Lydia Lassila, who joined a weekly call to provide her insights and tips into mental health and wellbeing, sharing her experiences through difficult periods in her career.

“It was an incredible opportunity for our gymnasts to hear from Lydia and get a first-hand insight into how she dealt with issues through her career,” said Kim.

During this period of downtime, a rare luxury for a professional gymnast these days, Kim encouraged and supported athletes like Mitch Morgans, Chris Remkes, James Bacueti and Emma Nedov to explore further education and upskilling in order to best prepare them to navigate the next stage of their careers. Many athletes took the opportunity to participate in a number of Personal Development programs including Personal Branding and Financial Wellness.

Through this time, Kim has also partaken in an educational course, one funded by the AIS for Athlete Wellbeing & Engagement Managers working in sport. As part of the inaugural course, Kim has graduated in a Certificate IV in Career Development.

Through Kim’s involvement with the AIS, she has also assisted with several AIS-led initiatives that involved several high-performance gymnasts. The #LightUpTheDawn campaign, featuring Senior National Women’s Trampoline member Eva Kierath, aimed to recognise and respect the Australian armed forces on ANZAC Day.

Led by Kipp Smith, a member of the Junior National MAG squad, several gymnasts also took part in National Volunteer Week in a bid to say thank you to those who have given their time to aid in making their careers possible and successful thus far.

As the AIS reopened on May 30, albeit with rigorous and important safety measures in place, a handful of Senior National MAG athletes eagerly returned to training understanding and accepting of the new norms that awaited them because of the commitment shown by the likes of Kim and the wider High Performance team.

Men's Health Week
This week, 15 - 21 June marks Men's Health Week, a week dedicated to promoting and increasing awareness around preventable health issues and encourage all men to understand the importance of their health. 

Through Kim's important work with GA's HP athletes, she has provided important support to all gymnasts to help educate and create awareness of how they can access various resources to assist their health and wellbeing.