Ensuring that the athlete voice is truly heard within individual sports and the overall system is a vital part of what we do. To achieve this, we work with around 80 Athlete Representatives across sports, supporting them as they strive to represent their peers, and make sure their opinions are heard by senior management. But what is the day-to-day reality of being an Athlete Representative? Cyclist Pete Mitchell has given us his insight.
“I was an Athlete Representative at British Cycling for three years, and when the organisation founded the Rider Representative Commission in 2018, I was proud to be elected to the role of Chair.
“Put simply, the Commission was there to represent the views of the athletes to British Cycling’s Senior Leadership Team, and to ensure that riders’ voices were heard in the decision-making process.
“In practice, this saw us develop a structure that enabled riders to meet with Senior Leadership every quarter, as well as recruiting Rider Representatives who could act as points of contact for riders across the programme. The plan has changed with time, but Reps tend to catch up once a month, as well as to follow on from any education, workshops or consultations that we are involved with. COVID update sessions, organised by the BAC, and the recent APA consultations would be two good examples of this.
“The representation process can work very differently in different sports, due to factors such as a sport’s squad size and existing culture. In cycling, for example – due to us having a really big squad and because the sport is broken down into different disciplines which train separately from each other – it could often be difficult to canvas the opinions of the full squad.
“There were other learnings we took from our first few months as a Commission. In the early days, we were probably too focussed on taking every issue that a rider brought to us forward, whereas as we evolved, we had a clearer vision of what we wanted to try to achieve, and plenty of that was based around athlete wellbeing and culture within the squad.
“From a personal point of view, I took a lot from the experience. It gave me a greater knowledge of how my NGB worked; of who did what within the Senior Leadership Team; and why they worked within the structure that they did. At British Cycling, we were fortunate enough to have strong support from the then-CEO, and I found that senior figures within the organisation were pleased to have a considered athlete voice to interact and consult with.
“I remember back in the early days of the Commission, I found myself Googling things like ‘how to minute a meeting’ and ‘how to create a meeting agenda’, because these simply weren’t skills that I’d had to employ before. To pick practical things like that up has broadened my skillset, and having recently retired from international cycling and put together my first-ever professional CV, the attributes I’ve gained from athlete representation have been really valuable.
“Athlete representation is absolutely crucial, and being able to facilitate this within my sport is something I’m very proud of. There’s no point pretending that it was easy – representing the views of your peers can often be an emotionally-consuming experience – however it was clear to me from very early on that the appetite for change was there, and I was pleased to play my part in pushing this forward.”