Wellbeing director Gearoid Towey on connecting with riders in the electronic age

    Gearoid Towey is a four-time Olympic rower, a former rowing world champion and the founder of Crossing the Line, an Australian-based organization devoted to athlete development and wellbeing. The Irishman was appointed EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale’s wellbeing director ahead of the 2017 season and works with the team’s riders and staff throughout the season.

    With a portion of the #SaveArgyle funds earmarked for athlete development, Towey’s work with the team has become part of a broader initiative that now includes educational opportunities offered by new team partner and majority owner EF Education First. We’ve invited Towey to pen a bi-monthly wellbeing column to facilitate a better understanding of how our commitment to investing in the whole athlete translates into action throughout the season. Towey’s second column delves into the details of our webinar series within the context of our wellbeing program

    With the spring races in full swing, the riders are racing hard and in many different locations at the same time, and I won’t even mention the weather.

    Time and energy is in short supply with the focus squarely on performance. As we know, having riders in the same place at the same time is rare. So this makes delivering wellbeing programs and courses pretty tricky and even trickier during the racing season, ironically when riders probably need it most.

    As mentioned in my last column, in order to deal with the issue of geographical disparity and busy scheduling, we have developed a series of webinars so that riders can access information, delivered by industry experts, in a wide range of topics related to their mental wellbeing and their lives off the bike.

    The webinars can be accessed anytime and from anywhere. They could be sitting in an airport on their phones, chilling in the hotel between races or at home with their families. The webinars give the riders flexible access to highly qualified individuals across a number of different topics related to athlete wellbeing and life beyond sport. Many of our webinars and program facilitators are also ex-athletes. Our webinars, workshops and programs equip athletes with self awareness and skills that assist them in their pursuit of high performance and in life after sport. We teach athletes how to manage their lives outside of sport so that they are ready for challenges they may encounter. If left to chance, these challenges might distract them from their sport and make the post-career transition a harder graft than it needs to be.

    Of the 22 webinars we have scheduled for the year, we have completed four. Our sessions on digital health included Linkedin evangelist Claire Austin, who explained how to make social media work to the advantage of the riders in both their sporting life and their lives beyond the bike. This session was followed up by a webinar on digital nutrition, led by psychologist and digital nutrition expert Jocelyn Brewer. Digital Nutrition is an aspect of digital wellbeing and digital citizenship. It considers a range of issues such as screen-time limits, healthy tech habits and principles for digital wellbeing. It looks at the soft skills involved in developing the skills to use technology in a mindful and considered way, and to understand the underlying reasons we may choose to use technology in certain ways. Highly relevant for riders who have growing social media followings.

    Our online education will continue right throughout the year and gives the riders plenty of food for thought that will hopefully lead to discussions with us and action around life off the bike, when the racing calendar is less crammed, and they have time to breathe.

    —Gearoid