2024 H3 Summit | Leadership & Communication

Published Thu 09 May 2024

Images: Chris Hocking/OWIA

Health, Happiness and High Performance were once again the key pillars of the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia (OWIA) and Snow Australia H3 Summit that saw more than 130 athletes, coaches and support staff from across the winter sports community come together last week in Melbourne.

The theme of the 2024 H3 Summit was ‘Leadership & Communication’, with the event MC'd by Olympic gold medallist Lydia Lassila.

Athletes participated in sessions with industry experts including AFL’s Executive General Manager Laura Kane around leadership, Mathew Wann from The Unspoken Edge around the key to unlocking non-verbal communication, Olympic host broadcaster Channel 9 with media training as well as other key high performance topics around nutrition, athlete commission priorities and the AIS HP2032+ Strategy.

In the HP2032+ Session, the AIS shared details of Australia’s first strategy for high performance sport and the vision of ‘winning well to inspire Australians’.

Australia’s key points of difference were highlighted as the ‘Win Well’ pledge, Connection to Country and inclusive design ensuring all our people meet their potential.

Winter Sport coaches, performance support services and high performance staff were inspired to join this journey as key stakeholders of the Australian sport system. 

In the media session, athletes were able to ask questions to reporter Christine Ahern and Olympic Chief-of-Staff Jacqui Lumb to gain a better understanding of how to tell their own story through interviews. 

“Media training is such an important part of developing as an athlete,” said two-time Olympian Sami Kennedy-Sim. “It was great for the athletes to see the plans the network has as the Olympic broadcaster through Paris and Milan-Cortina.” 

Three-time Olympian Laura Peel and three-time Paralympian Ben Tudhope are part of the AIS Athlete Advisory Committee and both presented on the work the Committee is doing and how it can further support high performance athletes. 

Tudhope said having both Peel and himself on the Committee, he hoped they could further advocate on behalf of the winter sports community. 

“It's such a privilege to be on that AIS Athlete Commission,” he said. “I don't take that responsibility lightly. 

“I was fortunate to be picked out of a great group of applicants. But, now we get put to work and we just hope to get the best experience out of Australia for every single individual athlete. 

“The H3, it's all about health, happiness and high performance and creating this environment where we can interact well and integrate that with high performance. The better off athletes are mentally, the better everyone will perform on the field and on the day.

“The H3 Summit is a great initiative by Snow Australia and OWIA, and it's really a special day to have all the athletes, all the winter family together. 

“Sometimes throughout the years [of the Summit] I meet some bobsled athletes, some skating athletes that you never would actually get the opportunity to meet. So it broadens your horizons by actually seeing the whole winter sport family… you feel very connected,” he said.

When it comes to connecting athletes to sport beyond the field, AFL’s Laura Kane knows that first hand.  She highlighted to the group the incredible array of skills they learn as athletes that are widely transferable into corporate or back-of-house sports roles. 

“I was just talking to an athlete today and they said ‘I'm just this’ and I said you’re not ‘just’ anything,” she said. “Athletes have the hardest job in the world and the skills they learn around being punctual, being disciplined, receiving feedback, and being resilient, are what every sport needs to run well. 

“So I think being able to articulate that and not saying ‘I'm just an athlete’ is a very important message that I hope I shared.” 

Kane said it is apparent that Olympic and Paralympic athletes build up resilience while training and preparing across long four-year cycles, and acknowledge that an advantage their sports also have is gender parity. 

“If the athletes can articulate what they have that other sports don't and how they got there and what it feels like when you're in an equitable environment, I think that's a really, really big opportunity for snowsports athletes,” she said. 

One of the athletes who has identified opportunities to take her athletic skills to a sporting environment, is Aerial Skier Abbey Willcox, who away from the snow is working for the NRL’s Brisbane Broncos. 

Willcox returned to the World Cup circuit this season, coming back from injury and scoring three top five finishes including bronze at Deer Valley, her first World Cup podium in nearly four years.

Willcox said that she was able to take away a lot from Kane’s presentation at the H3 Summit. 

“The H3 Summit is really valuable,” she said. “Hearing from the GM of AFL, you get to pick up on new things. I get to learn a lot of new areas that you don't necessarily get to see in winter sports. And vice versa we get to tell her about our experiences too, which is really great. 

“I really recommend any athletes in winter sports, summer sports, Olympic sports just to have a go and try and get your foot in the door of one of those big sporting clubs and see what you can learn from it and what you can give back to them as well. 

“I have learnt a lot in my role and I also feel like I've given a few little different things here and there that they may not have been aware of in the NRL, that I've gathered from just travelling around the world as an elite athlete.” 

With a fun afternoon of surfing much more to some of the athletes’ skill set in 2023, this year they took to the rink for curling under the expert guidance of 2022 Olympian Dean Hewitt.

Hewitt was impressed the athletes’ ability to step outside their comfort zone while also using communication tools learnt earlier in the day.

“What a fantastic way to bring together all the winter athletes in a sport most haven’t tried before,” said Hewitt. “It was a fun way to integrate messages around communication and leadership in a curling setting.

“The games sure brought out everyone’s competitive edge while leaving with plenty of smiles, laughs and maybe a couple bruises. Who knows… maybe a talent transfer lies ahead for a couple of the athletes!”

Hewitt also gained a lot from the presentation by Performance Coach, Mathew Wann.

With over 15 years’ experience in non-verbal communication and behaviour analytics, Mathew spoke to athletes, coaches and staff about gaining a competitive advantage through the interpretation of unspoken signals.

“Matt was fascinating to listen to,” said Hewitt. “The engagement he had with everyone sure made an impact and had a lot of people shuffling in their seats to make sure they portrayed their ideal body language. [Curling partner] Tahli [Gill] and I pride ourselves on our ever-evolving communication and Matt delivered so many insights into how we could communicate even better without using words.”

Athletes were able to benefit from a Nutrition ‘Hour of Power’, with the opportunity for a Q&A with panel members Bree Walker (Bobsleigh), Harry Laidlaw (Alpine Skiing), Ben Tudhope (Para Snowboard) and moguls coach Peter McNiel.

The discussion theme of ‘fuelling for health, wellbeing and performance’ highlighted areas where sports nutrition can play an important proactive role, as well as identifying opportunities to collaborate with sports dieticians for better outcomes in strength, power, performance and rehabilitation. 

The H3 Summit also involved the participation of students from the Worawa Aboriginal College which now has an active partnership with the OWIA.

School Principal Tanya Peeler spoke passionately about the history and purpose of the College. While the OWIA-Worawa partnership started as an opportunity to be able to donate apparel for use by students at the school, it has evolved into something much more meaningful as both organisations identify opportunities for the College students within the winter sport community as well as working together to educate staff and athletes on the heritage and culture of First Nations People in the spirit of Reconciliation.

Following the day-long summit, athletes and staff were able to celebrate the highly-successful season at the 2024 Snow Australia Awards.