AIS launches new division to focus on mental health in sport

The AIS has enhanced its commitment to mental health and wellbeing in sport by establishing the Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement team, to be led by newly appointed AIS Deputy Director Matti Clements.

As the peak agency for high performance sport in Australia, AIS Director Peter Conde said it was vital the AIS with the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) led the way by prioritising athlete wellbeing.

“By establishing the Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement team we are sending a clear message to our athletes and our sports that they are our greatest assets and they matter most to us,” Conde said.

“Mental health and wellbeing is fundamental for any athlete. Proactive measures to promote athlete wellbeing will be an essential focus of this team, assisting sports and athletes to cope with the unique pressures of high performance environments. It’s about supporting athletes as they transition through key moments in their sporting lives and beyond.”

The Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement team will focus on holistic athlete development, including life skills to negotiate the high performance environment, professional development in career and education and activities to assist community engagement and integration.

A former AIS sport psychologist, Clements returns to the Institute after more than 15 years working with Australian professional sporting codes. Clements said she was excited by the advancement in mental health support in sport, but greater emphasis and leadership was still required.

“It’s time for all Australian sport to recognise the importance of athlete mental health in the elite sporting environment and understand the need to support and encourage our great athletes to engage with their communities and in positive life activities outside of training and competing,” Clements said

“There has no doubt been a shift in the understanding of mental health in Australian society and as we talk about it more there is less stigma. But that stigma still exists. Athletes are generally tuned to be strong, fearless and to not show vulnerability, so we need to culturally embed athlete wellbeing in sporting environments.

“For the ASC Board, CEO and the AIS Director to understand and support the importance of this area in high performance sport shows international leadership and I am extremely proud to be asked to be part of the new Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement team. It’s an exciting time to be part of elite sport in this country.”

Clements will commence at the AIS on 29 January 2018.