What has Sara Heasly been up to during isolation?

​​With athlete wellbeing so important due to the unforeseen circumstances, the Victorian Institute of Sport Performance Lifestyle (PL) Team have had to ensure they're still able to provide all the support to athletes remotely. We caught up with PL adviser, Sara Heasly to see how she has been working with athletes remotely and what advice the team has been giving during these tough times.

The VIS motto ‘Success in Sport and Life’ has guided the Institute since it was launched 30 years ago and the Performance Lifestyle Team are dedicated to ensure that our athletes also succeed outside of their sports, in areas such as study and their career.

Heasly has been at the VIS for over a year now and works closely with several different sports, including the cycling and swimming programs as well as her role at Shooting Australia, where she is the Wellbeing and Engagement Manager. 

How are you able to still continue servicing athletes from home?

SH: Like everyone within the organisation we pivoted quickly online, using Microsoft Teams. This has been a great tool for us to speak face to face with individual athletes and groups of athletes. We have also been able to do group inductions and also one-on-one Performance Lifestyle inductions and consults. We have found that athlete development workshops via Teams have been a hit amongst the athletes.

What advice have you been giving athletes during isolation?  

SH: My advice has been to be patient with themselves and their loved ones. To keep close to their coaches and performance staff and complete their training as best as they can. To embrace other opportunities that will come their way like our athlete workshops and careers week offerings, which were all online, and to dig into any study they are currently doing. Keep connections with family and friends and to seek help whenever they felt the need.

What has been some of your biggest challenges from an athlete well-being point of view?

SH: Performance Lifestyle is based on strong relationships and it has been challenging not being able to be in the daily training environment with athletes and staff where we have incidental conversations that lead to useful interactions and athlete development down the track. I have really missed the interaction with athletes and staff.

Has there been anything that you’ve noticed isolation has helped with from a Performance Lifestyle point of view?

SH: Iso-life has required us to jump online and this has worked well for many athletes. To be able to talk, learn and join in on webinars from home has been time efficient and an easy way for athletes to engage.  

Some athletes have gone back to university or picked up another subject given no Paralympics or Olympics and time at home. Everyone has had changed routines and our athletes have been really open to opportunities presented to them.

Have you been able to use some of this time to try any different/new things with the athletes?

SH: We have used this time to organise group sessions on job searching, resume writing, cover letters, job interview techniques and networking have been great. The follow up individual sessions have been awesome. Beaming in guest speakers online has been easy for both the speakers and the athletes – no travel time!

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