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Giving athletes more of a voice to help shape better sporting environments

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In response to demand from athletes, a new panel has been created to help develop more positive environments so that Welsh athletes can really thrive while participating in top-level sport. 

The ‘Athlete Voice Panel’, which is being supported by Sport Wales, is made up of both current and recently retired athletes who are all keen to share their experiences and ideas.

Commonwealth Games gold medallist boxer Rosie Eccles, Jordan Hart (badminton), Luke George (power lifting), Bethan Davies (race walking), and Anastasia Blease (wheelchair basketball) are all on the panel, together with ex-swimmers Alys Thomas and Georgia Davies. 

Cath Shearer, Sport Wales’ Environment Lead, said: “This panel is a first for Sport Wales, and all stems from athletes telling us that this is something they need and want. The panel will provide valuable insight from athletes on the ground about what helps them to be at their best. It will help support a range of other work that’s underway so that everyone involved in Welsh sport can create really great environments which fully consider athletes’ mental health and wellbeing.

“Although we’ll be on hand to help steer some conversations that the panel have, we’re really keen for the panel members to drive the agenda themselves. We anticipate there’ll be some simple stuff that can be changed in response to the panel’s feedback as well as some changes that will be more long term.”

Panel member Alys Thomas said: “I am delighted to be involved in the Athlete Voice Panel and feel that it will pave a new pathway for athletes’ voices to be sounded. Already it feels so great to have discussions with like-minded individuals from different sports on a range of topics. Hopefully there is so much we can build on to help shape and improve the current and future experiences of athletes across Wales. 

“As a recently retired swimmer myself, I’m truly passionate about using my experiences to be able to give back to swimming and sport in some way, and I believe that this role is a way I can do that.”

Alys Thomas in Swimming Race
As a recently retired swimmer myself, I’m truly passionate about using my experiences to be able to give back to swimming and sport in some way, and I believe that this role is a way I can do that.
Alys Thomas

Fellow panel member Luke George said: “I applied to become an Athlete Voice Panel member because I wanted to have an impact on how we can help children and young people reap the huge benefits that sports in Wales has to offer as well as discussing and solving issues that athletes face now. I want to be part of a team that helps all communities realise just how talented they are by unlocking any barriers that face our current and future generations.”

Explaining more about how the panel was formed, Carly Jackson, Clinical Psychologist at Sport Wales, said: “We asked all national governing bodies to advertise the panel, and it's great to have involvement from a mixture of current athletes who represent Wales in a variety of sports, as well as some who have recently retired. Athletes who have left the environment can sometimes look back on it more freely and with a more rational viewpoint.

“However, something that we’re very aware of is the fact that the panel isn’t fully representative of our population. It isn’t diverse as it could be and this is something that we hope to work with national governing bodies to improve in the future.”

Carly concluded: “We will be very open about what the panel discusses and will share feedback with sports and the wider Welsh sport sector. We’re also exploring options for how we ensure that other athletes can interact really easily with the panel members and we’ll be providing further details about this soon.”

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