Ahead of the Commonwealth Games, which takes place between 4 and 15 April 2018, president of Commonwealth Games England Denise Lewis spoke with Business Leader Magazine about the opportunities for its young Team England squad.
Lewis, who became Olympic heptathlon champion in 2000, urged the squad to take their chance in Australia offering advice to the athletes.
With a young team going to the Commonwealth Games in Australia, how much of an opportunity is this for them?
The Commonwealth Games is a real opportunity for younger athletes to get some silverware. There’s going to be pressure on them because there is expectation. Some athletes aren’t able to win on the global stage but they absolutely can make sure they deliver at a Commonwealth Games, in an environment that is welcoming, the performances should be good.
For young athletes, the question is, how do you cope with pressure?
They should use this opportunity to see how they can handle their nerves. There’s athletes going to these championships with probably no senior international experience, they will want to make an impact. It’s all about how they conduct themselves, how they learn to cope with being so far away from home and coping with the pressure of being part of such a big team. This is all going to be different for them. The experienced athletes who are at their second, third Commonwealth Games will equally want to perform to their best and should help the younger team members.
With those experienced athletes they’ll no doubt influence the others around them, how important is that influence from those experienced athletes?
It’s a learning and development game for the younger members of the team. You can’t expect them to just get it, it’s about gaining confidence, which will breed good results. They’re going to hopefully ask questions and the senior athletes will impart knowledge. The fact that they’re watching and sending a message to the younger athletes will be a big help. It’s also about how the more experienced athletes console the other members of the team if things don’t go well.
How have you found the role of president?
I think sitting at a board level has been really interesting, learning what the challenges are, across the board in sport. I’m really proud of the board members and how Team England has managed to secure a partnership like with nPower going forward is really important as a brand and for funding. We have to continue to flourish and support the athletes.
In the role, how important is leadership and what qualities makes a good leader?
Leadership, I always say, is about leading from behind. You’ve got to listen to people and have your ear to the ground. There are so many facets to what the objectives are but it is about having clear goals and values as an individual or an athlete would. What are we trying to achieve? Who are we? What are we about? And what are we trying to deliver?
What inspires you to keep going ?
With this role, it’s my love of sport. I wouldn’t say it’s all I know but it’s been such a major part of my life and I continue to be amazed by how it can impact somebody and their lives. I know I am a product of that and I think I mirror the beginnings of many athletes who have to travel a lot, use facilities that aren’t great, but have something to focus on and that vehicle to express yourself can really turn your life around. The ripple effect that can have in inspiring someone to think differently about themselves and their lives or join you on that journey that can be amazing. Inspiring athletes to want to compete for their country is important to me.