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 first column, an introduction the wellbeing program, is below.
For the second straight season, EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale has partnered with Crossing the Line, the company I founded to to prepare athletes for life after sport. #PinkArgyle has committed to assisting riders in developing interests, skills and goals outside of cycling.
The sporting world has begun to acknowledge the importance of athlete welfare in regards to both life after sport and the competitive gains that can be found in pursuing objectives away from the bubble that is daily training and competition. Research shows that athletes who are engaged with something alongside their sporting career see performance benefits and prevent burn-out. EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale is the first team in the WorldTour to provide a program devoted to investing in the riders as human beings, not just as bike riders.
During my first year as the wellness director, I traveled to a number of races with the aim to get an in-depth view of the cycling world. Being immersed in the race experience first-hand allowed me to better understand the challenges and pressures our riders and staff face, which informs the work I do with them. The Crossing the Line program is a holistic one, which means we look at the full scope of an athlete’s life and offer assistance anywhere we see potential issues or potential opportunity. Our approach includes counseling and psychological support, which can be a really valuable tool for athletes when “life” gets in the way of training and racing. We believe a mentally sound and sorted human will perform better.
Last season, Crossing the Line helped riders:
- develop business ideas
- commence tertiary education
- create networking opportunities
- pursue counseling
We also developed a sporting exchange program for sport directors with other elite sporting organisations as a way of further developing their knowledge base.
Delivering our program to a cycling team proved logistically challenging. Riders and staff are spread all over the world at any given point in the season. In response to this challenge, we have scheduled 22 webinars for riders and staff throughout the 2018 season. Webinar topics include mental health, communication skills, business idea development, networking, digital health and much more.
Instead of trying to coordinate group workshops in person (which is what happens with more centralized sports but is an impossible dream with a cycling team), the riders will now be able to access a fully interactive learning experience wherever they are in the world. This means they can take advantage of our offerings while waiting for flights, resting in their hotel rooms before races or just having a coffee at home before a training ride. There’s an added benefit to this approach. It allows us to attract leading experts in the webinar topics to present their work to the riders from anywhere in the world.
We are also launching a mentoring program in 2018. The EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale riders have many different interests, and developing these interests does not have to involve formal education right away. Connecting riders to experts and high performing individuals outside sport is a great way to explore potential pathways and develop a solid non-sporting networt. It is also really time efficient for riders as the level of engagement will be on their terms.
Crossing the Line’s contract extends from the WorldTour team to the development team in 2018. All our development guys are already pursuing tertiary education and are riding their bikes pretty fast! Our job with them will be helping build on what they have already started themselves in terms of education and career ideas in addition to all the services available to the World Tour riders.
You can expect regular updates from me on our wellbeing program thoughout the year. Feel free to let me know of any questions you have or particular topics you’d like me to address.