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Wellbeing Over Winning



As the world watches the Tokyo2020 Olympic Games with delight or disdain, one thing has become obvious. We are seeing a paradigm shift in how sports people – men, women and non-binary individuals from across the globe, identify their mental wellbeing.


Simone Biles, arguably the most gifted gymnast of our generation and a star of a kind not seen since Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci changed the sport in the 70’s, stood down from the teams competition and a certain gold medal, to focus on her mental wellbeing. She was public about it and didn’t hide behind an injury or an excuse. She owned it. The pressure was too much.


Naomi Osaka, a prodigiously talented Japanese tennis player and the only player from Japan in history to have won a grand slam title publicly bowed out of both Wimbledon and the French Open to focus on her mental wellbeing.


Michael Phelps, the most successful Olympic swimmer of all time, Ronda Rousey six-time UFC women’s title winner, NBA star Kevin Love, Baseballer Justin Duchscherer, the most successful female tennis player of our generation Serena Williams. All are superstars of their sports, and all have been very public about their mental health issues.


What we are witnessing is profound in so many ways. This is clearly a new era in sport and it heralds a time where we will see less focus on success at all costs. The world's best are stepping down from elite competitions and publicly talking about their wellbeing.


The pressure on athletes to perform has been lessened somewhat as audiences have changed. For people of a certain age, it is challenging but, in a world, where we are more open about our wellbeing - mental, physical and psychological, it is an evolution.


We may be noticing it more because we are working with Drake International on the design and growth of their Wellness Hub - a holistic program influencing systemic change and supporting organisational wellness and wellbeing across mental, physical, social and financial outcomes. In a time where sporting clubs and individuals are struggling with mental and emotional health issues, and where associations and organisations are focusing on players wellbeing more than ever before, Drake’s Wellness Hub sets a blueprint for all sporting bodies across Australia.


For the first time in our lifetime, we are seeing a focus of wellness over winning.


We are also seeing it in other sectors. In the commercial world, businesses are adopting programs like the Wellness Hub to provide support for members of their team and are saying it is okay - we’ve got you. Gone are the days when you need to call in a physical sickie because you can’t get out of bed, you are crippled by anxiety, depression or any one of a myriad of challenges to mental health.


The global COVID-19 pandemic has created further challenges for people and organisations, and in Australia we have seen the toll of repeated lockdowns to protect citizens. The toll on business and the self employed, unemployed and underemployed has been propound and will continue for a decade as we emerge from the pandemic to a post covid normal.


The most important factor is, however, pretty simple. We live in a world dominated by celebrity, deserved or otherwise and every time someone we know, admire, respect or are a fan of steps up and says I have some issues, they take one more brick from a wall we never needed to build.


Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka, Michael Phelps. We salute you, all of you brave enough to own who you are, to prioritise your wellness over winning. You make it just that bit easier for the rest of us.


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