After six years on the BOA's Athletes' Commission, Leon Taylor talks about the progress the group has made since its beginnings and the value the commission has in helping achieve future Olympic success for Team GB.
Leon, you have been a part of the Athletes’ Commission since its inception, how have you seen the commission change? What have been the biggest developments?
When we started the commission, it was a new adventure in many ways. Over the six year we’ve started to refine our role and work out how much influence we can have. It’s not about athletes sitting together, having a rant but about working out exactly where we can be specific and make a difference to many athletes.
During my time, it's been amazing to have had people from a mix winter, summer and a wide variety of sports as well as people like Adam Pengilly who sit on the IOC commission. It’s great to knock heads on a number of topics and find our common areas of interest and where we can make a difference.
Learn more about who's on the Athletes' Commission here
What have been the key topics that you have been involved in over the years?
One of the areas I’m most interested in is transition from competing and events like the athlete’s careers fair have developed as a result of our discussions and input so I’m really proud of that.
Transition for me, as someone who approached and then went through it, is a really important area and a duty of care that we have. It’s not something that is done particularly well and I think it’s the responsibility of Ath Comm to try and signpost or influence in a positive way where it can and I certainly threw myself into that.
We’ve also looked at how we communicate with athletes, which is always difficult as athletes are rubbish at responding to anything! As athletes ourselves we get that, so it’s about working with those at the British Olympic Association on how best to communicate and increase athlete engagement.
It’s a work in progress, as many of these things are but we really need to continue to engage athletes in the commission and in Team GB and the work behind the scenes.
We are also used as a sounding board to sense check lots of things, for example athlete kit at the Games, which is always a difficult one due to athlete fashion choices! In the lead up to Rio, we had presentations from Simon Jersey with their formalwear and adidas with the competition and leisurewear and fed back our thoughts. It’s important to have that involvement throughout.
We also get involved in some of the Games time planning, for example working with the team who ran the Rio prep camp. They came to us in the build-up for our opinions on activities they were planning in the camp, and we may advise against it or we may say that we think athletes would be really keen to attend. I think the Ath Comm plays a really important role in the planning process, we are a resource to be used by Team GB and I think it’s important that the commission continues to refine, define and develop itself.
Where do you see the role of the Ath Comm going forward?
Broadening the reach is important. Athlete representation in sports isn’t great generally speaking and that isn’t good enough. You get some athletes who are aware and keen and others who don’t know that their representation exists.
It’s important that the messages get out there. If athletes would read their emails it would be a lot easier! But they’re too busy lifting weights and being the best in the world so we can forgive them for that.
Team GB’s Athletes’ Commission has got a real chance to continue to build awareness within the athlete community and I think the key is athlete representation in the sports. For example, I know that British Athletics are putting together their own Ath Comm which is great, so we need to link in with them for a direct line to the athletes.
Can you give us some of your personal highlights from your time on the commission?
Hanging out with fellow athletes, both current, recently retired or very retired like I am now! Sport is a family, which sounds like a cliché, but it is. When I walk in the door at the BOA it’s like a home from home.
You’re all part of one big tapestry and the success of Team GB is something to be very very proud of. It is the shining light of British sport and it is a very special thing to be a part of, to have the chance to represent Team GB athletes and make a difference feels amazing.
Your time on the Team GB Athlete’s Commission has come to an end. What would you say to athletes thinking about going for a place on the commission?
If you’re thinking of putting yourself forward for the commission, it’s got to work for you and where you are in your career. If you’re still competing, you just need to be careful that it fits in with you but for anyone who has transitioned or is transitioning out of sport it’s a no brainer as far as I’m concerned because you get to be a part of the action and be involved in making a difference.
We have lots of new members of the Ath Comm now and it’s great to have new members coming through with their ideas, experiences and interests.
With technology as it is now you can be a part of it wherever you are. I’ve just been into the meeting and it’s like Minority Report in there with people on screen from all over the world, so you can very much be a part of it even if you can only attend in person every so often. Don’t be scared, give it a go.