The Commonwealth Games will start today with the opening ceremony in Birmingham, bringing together more than 5,000 athletes from 72 nations and territories over an action packed 11 days.
To mark the start of this much anticipated sporting event, we sat down with dedicated colleagues at our partner organisation The English Institute of Sport (EIS), to find out how they have been supporting athletes during the lead up to this year’s games. We sat down with Emma Levy, Physiotherapist who is working with the British diving team from the London Aquatic Centre in addition to multisport at our facility in Central London, Dr Hannah Stoyel, a Performance Psychologist based largely at the London Aquatic Centre and Josh Rudd Performance Lifestyle Practitioner with Olympic Swimming.
How are you involved in helping/supporting athletes and preparing them for the Commonwealth Games?
Emma: I have been treating the divers in the lead up to the Commonwealth games. So I have been working with the rest of the performance support team to ensure that the athletes are fit, strong, free from injury and ready to compete.
Hannah: My best work is done when I know the athletes well so that I can tailor my work to the athlete in front of me. In that sense it is important I have time to really get to know the athletes and we work on psychological prep for months or years in advance of a major moment. In preparation for the Commonwealth Games, I work with athletes one-to-one. I will meet with synchro pairs, and coaches both with athletes and on their own. I also keep in close contact with other members of the MDT (physio, S+C, lifestyle advisors). I will discuss with each athlete how they handle pressure of competition based on what has worked for them before… and what hasn’t! For diving in particular, we discuss the pre-performance routine that will give them the most confidence on the day and what logistical and psychological tools they will use in that routine and between rounds. It is about building self-awareness in athletes so that they can understand what they need to do to replicate the ideal performance mindset on the day. We also work on strategies to help them move on from each competition (no matter how it goes) so that they are ready to confidently tackle their next performance.
Most of the work has been completed in the build-up and as part of a performance debrief. I will be available virtually for any divers who need anything while they are away, and I will check in with all of them. I will be at the games supporting swimmers as part of another role I have that is non-EIS. (I am also the sport psych for swim England).
Josh: The majority of my support will involve making sure the athletes have all their non-sport related lifestyle factors accounted for to focus solely on competing in Birmingham. Ensuring exams and coursework deadlines are completed is a good example of my support heading into the games. I will then support the athletes remotely for any lifestyle related queries during competition.
What does a typical day look like for you leading up the Commonwealth games? And do you still have time for your own exercise/fitness etc?
Emma: When I work with the diving team, I arrive at the London Aquatic Centre in the morning and I will treat anyone who needs physio before they begin training. I will then watch them train, which is a good time to spot any niggles which may be developing, or to work with the coach in helping any injured athletes gradually progress their training following injury. Following training, I will then treat again if someone has hurt themselves throughout training. We also work pro-actively throughout the season so we will see the athletes even if they do not have an active injury and we will take regular movement and strength markers to monitor where they are at and if they need any further input.
Hannah: I am at the Olympic pool in London (Stratford) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I love the other side of London, so I go to a workout class in central London before I continue my journey to Stratford. I arrive in the mid-morning and debrief with the rest of the MDT so that I am caught up with any key updates about the athletes we work with. I then will typically meet with an athlete or two for a one-two-one (or with a synchro pair). When training commences, I take care of any virtual meetings I may have with other members of the EIS or British Diving (especially important is to keep checking in with Andy Hill who does the performance psychology for the divers based in Leeds and Sheffield so that we are always aligned). I then head on pool deck so that I can observe training. After the divers finish training I meet with a few more of them. I often then finish my day catching up with the coaches before I do my notes and reflections and head home!
Josh: My need to be in the training environments will be less, so thankfully it means less travel to our main Performance Centres in Bath and Loughborough during the games. My contact will be predominantly remote, however leading into competition I like to base myself in the training environment to ensure any last-minute conversations can be effective. I find it beneficial to be visible and athletes seem to appreciate the in-person nature of the work I provide. I also keep myself busy during this time with other project work and take time to watch the games.
What are some of the challenges that you /athletes are facing - and how are you helping to overcome this?
Emma: It is a busy competition schedule - they have just come back from the World Championships and after the Commonwealth Games they have less than a week before travelling to the European Championships. So this can be a challenge to keep the athletes fit and ensure they are adequately rested prior to the next competition.
Hannah: This is a very busy summer in aquatic sports! A lot of our divers have just got back from the World Championships only a couple of weeks ago (and Europeans is only a few weeks away!). So I am helping athletes get ready for peak performance mindset multiple times this summer. It is also a home games for many of our divers which is very exciting and novel! Helping athletes be aware of how a home crowd can impact them psychologically and it use that to their advantage.
As this is also the first year of the next Olympic cycle several of the synchro pairs are new and so helping them get used to a new pairing and increase their effectiveness as a pair.
Josh: Some of the biggest challenges are ensuring the 40-50 athletes on the Commonwealth Games team all feel supported before the event and have time to engage in the service before the competition. We have a team of 4 aquatics practitioners supporting British Swimming (Diving, Paralympic and Olympic Swimming) with Performance Lifestyle and meet regularly to ensure the needs of the athletes are being met.
Emma and Josh will often to be on site at our renowned centre of excellence for sports and exercise medicine in Central London – Emma will often see athletes here and shares: “The ISEH is a great facility to treat our athletes out of. We are able to provide a seamless service from sport doctor to scanning to physio to performance gym, all in a modern, bright, accessible facility in central London."
Josh adds: "My personal experience of our partnership has been fantastic. It gives me an opportunity to base myself here to meet with athletes when required. I also particularly enjoy the ability to network with other sports science & sports medicine peers from different organisations to hear about their experiences and share best practice."