In April 2019 BF announced a new partnership with The True Athlete Project (TAP) to support athletes along the pathway from the younger fencers within the Athlete Development Programme (ADP) to those working hard to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The True Athlete Project is a charity bringing together Olympians, Paralympians, clinical and sport psychologists, mindfulness teachers and even policymakers in it’s ambition to support improving athletic performance whilst nurturing mental wellbeing, and cultivating a more compassionate culture in sport.
By partnering with TAP the intention is to deliver exciting new projects which reflect BF’s vision for a new, whole-person, socially-conscious approach to athlete development.
As part of the UK Sport Aspiration Fund, one aspect of the project is a mentoring programme, in which senior GBR fencers are matched with aspiring youth fencers who would not otherwise have access to high quality and individualised support. The programme will focus on Mentoring and Coaching Skills, Compassionate Communication, Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness for Sport Performance, Athlete Activism and Nature and Connectedness.
Laurence Halsted, London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Fencer, sums up the importance and benefits of mentoring with his comment, “Mentoring is such a fantastic and unique thing to do because on top of being a momentous experience for the young person you are matched with, it also helps you realise the extent of knowledge and expertise that you have gained in your journey, as you pass it on to your mentee to help them avoid making some of the same mistakes. It has also been clearly shown that the greatest meaning in a person’s life comes from service to others, or giving back. I have absolutely found that in my two experiences of mentoring, and I would encourage everybody, athlete and ‘civilian’, to give it a go.”
As a pilot project, in the first year (2019/2021) only a small number of athletes were invited to join the mentor programme to ensure it can be personalised to individual challenges and goals. The vision is that the TAP mentor programme will develop and continue to be a core element of an athlete’s journey in future years.
In 2021-2022 the programme concluded with a number of mentors and mentees sharing experience via TAP Speaks videos, which can be found on BF-TV.
In 2022, cohort 2, started with 8 pairing taking part, with a former mentor undertaking the role of mentor. Feedback from the attendees was positive with 6 strong partnerships.
“Being a mentor on TAP has been a rewarding experience. The person centred approach of TAP creates a positive, open culture around sport, and everything that comes with being an athlete. As an athlete, I struggled with my mental health and being bullied; back then there was no support or anyone available for me to talk to about what I was experiencing. TAP enables athletes to have someone to talk to, relate to and share how they are feeling with, so being able to offer support to my mentee on her journey has been one of the most enriching experiences I’ve had” TAP Mentor
“The mentoring programme was a great experience! The course was so varied and interesting throughout, it also allowed me to look upon all the aspects of my life and sport from a different perspective. I got on well with my mentor and really enjoyed our conversations every week. It was nice to have a constant sort of thing and to talk about sport and everything surrounding it that helps not only with your performance, but shapes you as a person.” TAP Mentee
Together with the mentoring programme, TAP is also supporting the ADP to deliver an education programme with the following outcomes:
For Athletes – The ADP’s mission is to support athletes on the talent pathway to “thrive”, not just “survive”. We want athletes to experience increased self-awareness, profound personal and social development, enhanced perception of what it means to be an athlete, a greater understanding of strategies to be resilient in the face of life and sporting challenge, and improved physical and mental wellbeing. We expect this holistic, caring approach to result in improved sporting performance.
For Coaches & Volunteers – Together with the athletes, fencing coaches and volunteers working within the ADP will also be equipped with a greater understanding of, and the necessary skills to develop the mental wellbeing of the athletes they support. In turn, this is expected to lead to improved coach wellbeing, development and retention critical to the success of fencers along the pathway in the future.
Topics so far have included:
Mindfulness: Mindfulness can strengthen our ability to handle high-stress situations and pressure, work with doubt anxiety, help us overcome injuries and stay focused and present in training and competition. Mindfulness practice have been incorporated into ADP Camps working with both fencer and coaches.
Compassionate Communication: Skills and techniques to help fencers and coaches to create the non-judgemental and safe space where there can be compassion, openness, and ‘challenge’. Not only is this the correct approach in supporting fencers on the pathway, but it will support the next level of competitive advantage in performance sport.
Athlete Identity and Values For athletes or coaches who would like to understand how an athlete’s sense of identity can be either a help or hindrance for their long term sporting ambitions, uncovering some of the unhealthy, traditional misconceptions around sporting identity.
Cultivating Gratitude to Optimize Performance Cultivating a grateful mindset during times of adversity can build resilience, enhance well-being, and optimize performance. Skills on how to use gratitude to shift an athletes perspective, be present in the moment, build connection, and cope effectively, particularly when facing uncertainty in sport and in life.
BF’s work with TAP is funded by both UK Sport and Sport England.
Return to ‘The ADP Zone‘ to find out more information about the work that we do.
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