Top athletes focus on fit bodies and fitter minds by checking in with ‘iyarn’

Top athletes focus on fit bodies and fitter minds by checking in with ‘iyarn’

In order to compete at a professional level, Australia’s best athletes must have their physical, mental and emotional health in check.

High performance sporting organisation New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) is not just training fit bodies, but fit minds too by implementing positive wellbeing app iyarn – a tool that facilitates deeper conversations and encourages positive mental health practice among the state’s top athletes.

With 2020 one of the most isolating years yet, communicating our feelings and checking-in with peers is more important than ever. However, anxiety can be crippling when trying to express concerns during high-pressured times, leading to poor emotional wellbeing. 

The app encourages users to self-report how they’re feeling about different aspects of their lives such as respect, talent, determination, resilience and success using a customised ‘wheel’ that reflects their individual values, beliefs and goals. The wheel generates a wellbeing score that opens conversations around how they’re faring in all aspects of their lives, opening the opportunity to ‘have a yarn’ about it with a trusted friend, mentor, colleague or in the case of NSWIS, coach. In essence, it’s a data driven approach to measuring and managing relationships.

Athlete Wellbeing & Engagement Advisor for NSWIS Tom Livsey (who also has a background in Psychology) is dedicated to Values Based Living, player welfare, and long-term athlete development for Australia’s best sporting teams. 

Livsey started using iyarn in November 2019 with the NSW Women’s Hockey team. 

14 players check in fortnightly to rank how they are feeling about self-identified life segments. Livsey uses the data to identify red flags on a player’s wellbeing score and approaches the individual to talk openly about the issue by ‘having a yarn’. The iyarn wheel also generates a score on the group’s overall wellbeing, which Tom reports to Head Coach Katrina Powell.

“Their customised iyarn wheel is a true reflection of what matters most to the NSW Hockey Team and has helped support the girls mental state as a collective,” says Livsey.

By closely monitoring the results of the team’s iyarn wellbeing score during COVID-19 disruptions, Tom was able to identify that the group had a dip in two life segments; determination and motivation. Even though the athletes were forced to stop training together for four months, the iyarn app helped team management to address wellbeing issues and keep the team culture connected.

Livsey advises on wellbeing programs across nine sports at NSWIS including sailing, winter sports, and swimming and has been so impressed with the app he is implementing iyarn across all these disciplines in 2020.

iyarn was made by athletes for athletes. Founder Lockie Cooke is a former Western Australia Institute of Sport (WAIS) athlete in paddling, an active Surf Life Saver and was North Cottesloe Surf Life Saving Club sports captain of the year (YEAR). 

“To succeed in a fast-paced community, we need to make an effort to stop and create deeper, more robust connections,” he shares. “Connecting with others often comes down to being a good listener and creating a safe space for individuals to be vulnerable, open up and to have courageous conversations.”