Gamechangers: Race, Inclusion & Education

In this edition of On Side, Patrick Johnson talks about his role in helping to develop an agency and a sporting landscape that is culturally capable, respectful and engaging. Caitlin Bassett talks about her role as an Athlete Educator. 

The Gamechangers: race, inclusion & education

Former Olympic sprinter Patrick Johnson joined Sport Integrity Australia as a Culture and Safety Advisor to ensure our responses are appropriate and informed. Former Australian Diamonds Captain Caitlin Bassett speaks about her role as an Athlete Educator. 



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    Patrick Johnson: I think there's a shift to understanding sport is a vehicle for health, for education, to awareness, but also knowing what it means around reconciliation. The shift around real respect, real acknowledgement and real understanding, there has to be a pathway. Regardless of where you live in this country if you want to be a great sportsperson then let's make sure you have the opportunity. It shouldn't matter if you're in rural or remote communities, it shouldn't matter if you're black, white or brindle, whatever background, you should be able to be given the same opportunities as everyone else.

    Caitlin Basset: If the sporting organisation is using your image and using you to promote their brand, they also need to be responsible for helping keep you safe. Like I can throw and catch a netball and that's great, but how's that going to help me in the real world? And it's really nice to be working in this education role and understand that the things that I learnt during sport are now so relevant in helping me help others.



    “Welcome to On Side, the official podcast of Sport Integrity Australia. Our mission is to protect the integrity of sport and the health and welfare of those who participate in Australian sport”. 

    Tim Gavel: Hello and welcome to On Side the official podcast for Sport Integrity Australia. I'm Tim Gavel. In this podcast we speak to athletes, coaches and administrators and examine the issues that affect sport, answer your questions and educate you about clean and fair sport. Well, it's been a busy start to the year with the launch of Sport Integrity Australia's new Safety in Sport division. It includes a new hotline capability to provide a place for anyone in sport, past or present, to be heard and seek support. 

    The Safe Sport Hotline is part of an expanded service offered to members of a sport to share their story about integrity issues they've experienced. The service includes an anonymous reporting capability, which covers wider racial and cultural issues in sport for people who feel as though they've been discriminated against in their sport. Call 1800-161-361, 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, seven days a week to share your story. 

    Former Olympic sprinter Patrick Johnson has also joined the agency as a Safety and Cultural Advisor to ensure our responses are appropriate and informed. Patrick will provide strategic leadership to our agency and sport in Australia in the areas of diversity and inclusion with the aim of developing an agency that's culturally capable, respectful and engaging, while helping us guide education for delivery to all levels of sport in Australia. We'll talk to Patrick shortly. We'll also be joined by former Australian Diamond captain and world champion, Caitlin Bassett, who's recently taken up a role at Sport Integrity Australia as an Athlete Educator. 



    Tim Gavel: But firstly, to Patrick Johnson. Patrick is a Kaanju man from far North Queensland who's best known for being the first man of non-African descent to smash the 10 second barrier for the 100 metres. A dual Olympian, Patrick has an extensive career off the track that includes 10 years in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, more than 20 years of advocacy work for equal rights for all Australians, in addition to numerous indigenous leadership roles. Patrick is the inaugural Chair of the AOC's Indigenous Advisory Committee and is on the organising committee for the Olympic Games Board for Brisbane 2032, and he joins us now.

    Well Patrick, firstly welcome to Sport Integrity Australia. I guess culture is a very important part of sport these days?

    Patrick Johnson: Yeah definitely, and I think that's something that’s really great to be a part of Sport Integrity Australia, particularly around, we talk about cultural aspects and education and awareness, and I think it's something that as a country, and in sport that we really are making a lot of inroads to that space, but everyone's on their different journeys. So, it's really important to have that respect, but we have to lead by example, and I think that's where, part of my role here at Sport Integrity Australia is to really ensure that we are leading that space. 

    Tim Gavel: Sport can be driver, can't it? In the lead up to the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games, there's a feeling that sport can drive cultural change wider than sport and that's why it's so important to embed it into sport.

    Patrick Johnson: Yeah, and I think there's a shift to understanding sport is a vehicle for health, for education, to awareness, but also knowing what it means around reconciliation, and I think that there's a sense of the next nine years until Brisbane 2032, that we want to ensure that all Australians are a part of the Olympic Games and part of sport, and that's probably a bigger picture that we've looked at and bigger change that's happening in Australian sport, that we have to call out racism. We have to call out inequality. We have to create a real space for, culturally safe spaces around diversity and inclusion, and I think that's the shift that's happening in this country. 

    And of course, we've got a long way to go in certain sports and certain realities, but I think if we have good leaders in this space and everyone sort of buys into it and understands why we're doing it, then it's a real game changer in what we're doing leading into 2032, but it's also ten years post the Olympic Games which is really important and really leave a legacy that's really meaningful.

    Tim Gavel: Personally, did you experience much racism coming through as a sprinter?

    Patrick Johnson: Not as much. There was always some racist taunts but I was fairly fortunate where my running, I did the talking on the track. But also, I think in track and field you had a lot of diversity and against, I was competing against Americans, Jamaicans and the rest of the world so it probably wasn't a space for racism, but it still occurs and I think this is the biggest issue that we've got in sport is making sure that we have no tolerance for it at every level, from grassroots, also high performance. And again, it's dealing with the unconscious bias as well that people may have over the years, so it's actually addressing that which is a really important component where people don't even know they're saying certain things that may be racist or may be affecting the staff or to athletes or anyone. 

    So, we've really got to really be really inward thinking about how we reflect on our conversations and how we think, and that's a shift that as part of sport has a great vehicle in doing because sport breaks down all the barriers. Religion, race, culture, it brings people together. So how do we make sure sport then influences and educates in the right way?

    Tim Gavel: Because discrimination still exists in sport and that is, I guess, where culture comes into it but with racism, it can lead to discrimination as well. I guess at a grassroots level, that's where you'd be trying to sort of integrate that racism, discrimination has no place in sport. 

    Patrick Johnson: Yeah, it has to be at all levels and that's really important. From grassroots of course, they don't know nothing about racism unless they learn it from where they play or what they do so it's actually educating everyone involved, from parents to coaches to sporting organisations that there's no tolerance for racism, bullying, harassment, and you name it. It's really important that we understand why it happens, and I think there's that educational piece where you can say no to racism, but what's it really mean? 

    So, there's that educational piece of why are people racists or why are people bullying or being harassed? So, it's really being clear, understanding the reasons behind it and ensuring that we understand we don't have any tolerance for it, so we don't have a place for that in this country and particularly in sport. 

    Tim Gavel: Do you find it's an uncomfortable conversation to have with some people who probably don't know any different?

    Patrick Johnson: Yeah, it's always uncomfortable but I think you have to have an open dialogue. You have to start somewhere, and again it's how you approach that. You have people that as I mentioned, that may have an unconscious bias of saying certain things that not really appropriate because they've said the same thing for the last 30 or 40 years. But how do we ensure that we educate them in a way that so 'Well hang on, that's not really appropriate. What you've actually said is pretty demeaning and it is racist towards who I am and my culture and my people and my religion’ or whatnot. 

    So, it's actually, I'm a big person on calling it out but also educating because, again, some people who are blatantly racist, yes you got to call them out and you got to put them into place, but it's also understanding that some people that don't mean to do it because they actually didn't think it was an issue. 

    So, it's actually changing the hearts and minds of individuals from the grassroots to high performance from, parents to referees to coaches to administrators to start saying, ‘Hang on, we need to just take a moment here. What do we actually mean by being culturally appropriate?’, ‘How do we actually make sure this space is safe for everyone regardless of your nationality or background?’ But we want to make sure we're the leaders for our kids because everything what I do and we do, I hope, is for leaving a greater legacy for our kids.

    Tim Gavel: When you go to the Sports Commission, you're dealing with the elite athletes, you're Chair of the Indigenous Committee at the Australian Olympic Committee, do you find that it resonates? The message that you're telling elite athletes 'This is what you should be saying, this is what you should be doing, and this is how you should act so that it is culturally appropriate', are you finding that message is getting through?

    Patrick Johnson: Yeah, I think the great thing about a lot of the athletes I've dealt with and even through the Olympic movement, that athletes are really, actively buying into this. They want to ensure that they are culturally appropriate because they see Australia as very diverse and multicultural, and sport is but how do we ensure that it's for everyone? 

    And I think the great thing that we've got in Australia, there's a real movement within athletes in this country that are really the gamechangers. They're changing the way people perceive sport and athletes themselves because, if you don't have it leading by our athletes and our superstars, not only from our people that's well known but from the athletes from the grassroots, then it's very, very hard to continue their education because it's not driven by the ones that are really affected by it.

    Tim Gavel: It’s not entirely easy though, is it? Because there is racism let's face it in Australia, and racism occurs at many different levels and you mentioned there a moment ago, the casual racism where people may not understand or really believe that they're being racist, whereas it's the blatant racism which can be incredibly hurtful and is directed towards somebody, so it still exists in Australia, doesn't it?

    Patrick Johnson: Yeah, we can't sort of say it doesn't and it's really important that we all as individuals have responsibility to call it out. If you have a mate that's being racist, then you have to all that out.

    Tim Gavel: Have you had that experience yourself?

    Patrick Johnson: I've had sort of certain mates that have said things jokingly, I said 'Mate, I'm sorry mate, that's not appropriate', and they go 'But we know each other'. I said 'No, no, mate, I'm sorry but understand', and it's just educating. There's going to be people that are, whatever in life they're always going to be racist to, they're going to be ignorant to some of the real issues that are happening on the ground and where people come from, and they have their own stigma around our cultures and people. 

    So again, it shouldn't be left up to the people of culture to call it out it has to be every single person's responsibility, regardless black, white or brindle, you call it out because you know it's wrong.

    Tim Gavel: Within the Olympic movement, are there enough indigenous athletes taking part in sport?

    Patrick Johnson: Oh yeah there's been 60 known indigenous Olympians over the course of the Olympic movement but of course, we would like to see more and that's probably the big shift that's happening where leading into of course, nine years until 2032 but you can see the sports, the shift around real respect, real acknowledgment and real understanding there has to be a pathway. Regardless of where you live in this country, if you want to be a great sportsperson then let's make sure you have the opportunity. It shouldn't matter if you're in rural or remote communities, it shouldn't matter if you're black, white or brindle, whatever background you should be able to be given the same opportunities as everyone else. 

    And I know it's not there, but I think there's a shift that's happening and that's something that I'm passionate about to ensure that, let's say the Olympic movement itself, should be not just for the rich, it should be for every single person in this country to aspire, believe and could be a part of.

    Tim Gavel: With your workshops, what do you talk about when you talk to elite athletes? Performance, high performance people, what do you talk about?

    Patrick Johnson: Well first is probably getting their knowledge and understanding. So, I'm a big believer in actually understanding what they know. So, we can talk about cultural safe places, you can talk about cultural integrity, authority, cultural education, but everyone's on a different journey, so it's really important to, connect with people. And that's one of the bigger issues I have is you have to connect with the audience and the people you're talking to. Not talk at them.

    Tim Gavel: You don't lecture them.

    Patrick Johnson: Yeah. It's really important you bring them along on the journey. So that's the shift that I make where it's not me just presenting about being a cultural safe space and what it means to have respect for Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures and histories, it's about what do you know and how do we get you on that journey that it's meaningful but it's also it resonates to you and you can have the lived experience? It's not just ticking a box 'Oh look, I've done Reconciliation Week, I've done a cultural awareness training', I'm saying, well what do you do with that education? 

    And I think that's the bigger picture where you've got to be able to take it home with you and it should be not something that's separate in this society, it should be part of who you are as an Australian. You look at the Aboriginal culture's the oldest living culture in the world, and the Torres Strait Islander culture, why are we not celebrating? Why do we not embrace that? Everyone deserves that so I'm a big believer that again, it's not something that should be separate it's got to be a part of who you are.

    Tim Gavel: How careful do you think we need to be with our language? That's the key, isn't it? To make sure that it's not offensive.

    Patrick Johnson: Yeah, it's very crucial because the language is everything because it's how we interpretate culture or how we express ourselves and if it's not done in the right way, you can really unfortunately ostracise communities, people, individuals, and I think really, it's just taking that little bit of extra time and care, and it's around consulting with the right people. 

    Taking the time not to just put something out to say we've got something out there to say ‘We’re doing this’, it's actually taking the time to be really respectful, and I think it's a simple reality, respect. We talk about, everyone deserves respect and I think we need to ensure that we always give that respect.

    Tim Gavel: You talk there about athletes, you talk about the community and part of the community of course is the media, sometimes the media doesn't really understand the whole cultural aspect when it comes to sport. Do you find that? Do you find that there is a bit of misinterpretation?

    Patrick Johnson: Yeah, and I think there's good and bad. I think that's probably, there's another space where I think like any sort of outlet of, particularly around media, they've got to be well informed around some of the issues where you can talk about racists, you can talk about cultural difference, you can talk about religious difference, but you've got to do the research. You've got to actually come with knowledge and I think that's probably an opportunity that not only through media but across the board, that we've got to be a little bit more educated and a bit more aware of the situations or what we're covering because if we are, then we come with real informed questions, but also allow us to not be biased in some ways because it's easy to be biased, because if somebody says they had a racist taunt or been bullied or harassed and we just go straight to that, we don't sort of appreciate the history or the story behind that as well.

    Tim Gavel: Yeah. I guess some would say that we sometimes go too far. We've got to find a happy medium, don't we?

    Patrick Johnson: Yeah, and it's important because I think, we want a good story but it's also we want a factual story that is meaningful, but it actually ensures that there's real support for both sides. Where it's not just ostracising somebody who's called it out, it's making sure that really there's a little bit of a common sense, and there's a lot of respect that needs to be done because I think respect in what you do and how you talk to people, it goes a long way of getting the right information and the right facts when you talk about a story.

    Tim Gavel: When you were running, when you were retired, did you have any inkling that this would be an area where you'd end up in?

    Patrick Johnson: Not really. I mean I've always been passionate about creating change in health and wellbeing and in sport itself, but it's probably just come full circle and an opportunity to continue to give back. 

    Because I had it fortunate where I've had a different upbringing and I've had the trials and tribulations like anyone else, but I've always created a space that, life's about challenges and you got to challenge yourself and you've also got to make sure that it means something, you got to have purpose. If you don't have purpose, it's very hard to do what you do, and I think I've always done something I've loved to do and always challenged it and challenged myself to always think outside the box.

    Tim Gavel: You do need people championing your cause though, don't you? And being supportive because sometimes it just doesn't happen.

    Patrick Johnson: Yeah, and I think sometimes you got to do it yourself and it's sometimes hard where you want to get the right support but sometimes you won't get the support. And that's probably a tough reality that particularly in sport and life after sport and what you want to do, your dreams and aspirations, but I'm always a big believer that you never forget the people that have supported you, but you sometimes have to do the hard yards yourself and you continue to do their hard yards to create change.

    Tim Gavel: Do you find that because you were a champion sportsman, sports person, it is easier to gain acceptance? And I guess it is sometimes hard for you to realise why others can't have the same elevation that you've had or same acceptance?

    Patrick Johnson: Oh, not really, 'cause I think it's what you make of life. What you put in life is what you get out and of course, we all have different paths and different opportunities but again, I can't talk on how other people have experienced it. But I can only talk about I've struggled, I've gone through the trials and tribulations of sport, post sport, career development, all the sort of, emotions that you go through, but I've always had one thing in in front of my mind is, do what you love and always put that passion and drive into it and if you want to do something, do it yourself. Don't wait for anyone else.

    Tim Gavel: How was it after you retired? Did you fall into a little bit of a slump?

    Patrick Johnson: Yeah, that’s always there, 'cause I think like anything, I had aspirations of doing many things and I wanted to just focus on what my heart says and what my mind is sort of thinking and I decided I wanted to do a lot more in community around health and wellbeing and to inspire our next generation to believe there's something out there for them. 

    So, again, it wasn't a well-paid job, it was just something that I love to do and again, we talk about money, it's not everything, but you've got to make sure that you're doing something that you love and if you do something that you love, then it's not really work, is it?

    Tim Gavel: Tell us about some of the experiences you've had because you worked at Foreign Affairs post Olympics, post your running career, you've also been involved in encouraging healthy lifestyle in indigenous communities and now you're on a couple of boards, you're a leader in terms of cultural and racial change. How does that experience shape you as a person do you think?

    Patrick Johnson: Well, it's probably important I had that lived experience. So, my lived experience of going through the trials and tribulations of sport, going through different career opportunities and doing certain things that may not have been something I wanted to do but I knew there was something at the end of the road so to speak. So, I've always been a very positive person, very optimistic regardless of what life has thrown at me. 

    I've always persevered so I think the lived experience as an athlete of course, and of course, as you know Tim, living on a boat in the Whitsundays, it's always a big trial and error up there as well. I was able to always maintain that what you put in life is what you get out and you can only control the controllables. 

    So, I was able to always, regardless if I got injured or regardless if I moved on to a different career or I wasn't being as successful, I always maintain that sense of purpose which sometimes is very difficult because you may not have always that sense of clear purpose. But I had a clear sense of purpose, do what I love and always give it 120 percent. 

    Tim Gavel: Good on you, Patrick. As I said, welcome to Sport Integrity Australia. I'm sure you're going to make a huge difference. Thanks very much for joining us.

    Patrick Johnson: Pleasure. Thank you, Tim.

    Podcast Transition: You're listening to On Side, the official podcast of Sport Integrity Australia.



    Tim Gavel: Joining us now on On Side is former Australian Diamonds Captain and world champion, Caitlin Bassett. There isn't much that Caitlin hasn't done in netball, she was the beating heart of the Australian team and has 100 caps, is a two-time World Champion and is a Commonwealth Games gold medalist. 

    Caitlin retired last year and has taken up a role at Sport Integrity Australia as an Athlete Educator. She's determined to ensure the next generation of Australian athletes are educated on the threats to integrity in sport and Caitlin joins us now. 

    Well Caitlin, firstly welcome to Sport Integrity Australia. What was the reason behind becoming an Athlete Educator? 

    Caitlin Bassett: [LAUGHTER] I was at a little bit of a loose end after I finished playing netball I think and was looking for jobs online and one of them was for the educator role and I thought I've sat through so many of these sessions myself as an athlete I reckon I could do this job pretty good, and it's been heaps of fun so far.

    Tim Gavel: As an athlete, did you tune out at times?

    Caitlin Bassett: [LAUGHTER] So it was challenging at times. I remember when I was young being in a room with heaps of people and having it delivered to us. When I got a little bit older, we actually did it online and we had to complete the units as part of, to get paid basically. So, it was kind of a very big incentive there to get through some of the work, but I think what kind of struck me and what I said when I presented the other day was, I was an elite athlete for 18 years and the information that I was getting at the start of my career and the information I was getting at the end was vastly different. 

    So, I was always learning every time we came together to do an education session, whether it be around, drugs and in sport, whether it be around integrity issues around wagering and betting in sport and things like that, it was always something new and something learning because sport was evolving at such a rapid rate.

    Tim Gavel: Did you find that when you go around the shelves these days, do you have a look at batch testing of supplements and work out which supplements you can use, even though you're not involved in sport at an elite level, do you still look at those things?

    Caitlin Bassett: It's interesting because I'm still working in sport, I'm working within cricket and I have access to using some of the supplements at training and number one I don't use supplements anymore because I don't do any exercise, so I don't need to but yeah, I just think 'Oh wow, I can actually take whatever I want now' if that's what I wanted to do and didn't have to think about it. While I was playing, I did for a little bit get involved with starting my own supplement and that was one of the things that was really important obviously was the batch testing and as an athlete it's just always been ingrained in me, what I put in my body is my responsibility, and so I wanted to make sure that anything with my name attached to it was going to be something that athletes were going to be able to take safely and not have to worry because unfortunately it is still a drama these days. 

    You get given something really innocuous, you go to a hotel, you're staying away and there's little protein ball on your bed when you get there as like a welcome thing or, you go to the shops and there's all these bits and pieces and information and it really is scary, what to take and what not to take.

    Tim Gavel: Is that one of the messages when you go out to speak to athletes now that's what you're going to be saying to them? 'Be wary of everything that you put into your body.'

    Caitlin Bassett: Yeah it is, and I think, we see so much in the media these days about athletes coming out saying 'I didn't know', and 'I swear I didn't do anything wrong', and the responsibility is never on them but it actually is, and we don't want to scare athletes and we don't want to terrify them but, they are very lucky,  some of them are, some of the athletes we talk to are earning very big contracts so it's a lot, financial for them but it's your reputation at the end of the day and that's something that you can never reverse if someone's accused you of cheating or doping and things like that, it's kind of irreversible. 

    That mark will be on your career for the rest of your life, we know the internet these days never forgets so it's really important I think about being proactive and getting ahead of these things and stopping athletes making silly mistakes because often they put so much thought and effort into their training, their preparation, their diet, their exercise and it's just that one tiny little slip up that can let them, come undone.

    Tim Gavel: It's not just an anti-doping message that you're delivering either, it's all about the integrity of a sport. You mentioned a moment ago about wagering and whatnot, just amongst sports women, do you think wagering is an issue? 

    Do you think that, because we hear about it a lot in male sports where people are betting on everything, is it the same with women's sports?

    Caitlin Bassett: Well, it is becoming that way yes, because I mean, I'm currently working in cricket and when I go to work or to watch the girls play, I have to hand in my phone to start the game and that's just normal for them. Any iPhones or watches, anything that basically can get the internet gets handed in and gets put in a big lock box because people are understanding now that female sport is becoming more popular, and they can wager it. And in a sport like cricket, you can put bets on everything about, balls, wides, there's so many tiny little things in the game that you could potentially make into a wager and so, I think as female sport gets bigger and grows, unfortunately people who are on the outside and potentially want to do harm within sport kind of see an opportunity. 

    So yeah, it is important that in female sport, that we're being as diligent as we are in the men's sport because it is starting to creep in there. And my sport, netball, traditionally it was nothing that I ever experienced when I was playing, but social media and then betting these days has just gone through the roof.

    Tim Gavel: Just on social media, that's another aspect of being part of a sports person is these days, where you do cop it on social media. We've seen that recently with the Australian team, how do you cope with it and what would be your message to the young people in particular impacted by it, apart from simply getting off social media?

    Caitlin Bassett: Yeah, and that's the really hard thing I think as athletes these days, they're encouraged to build their brand and their profile and showcase what their sport is through social media and it's really cool for fans to engage that way and it is, it was always encouraged, like this is a great way to involve fans in your journey and so by opening up your life and sharing your life to them is a great way to bring them along on the ride with you. But you are also opening yourself up to the negative side and that is obviously abuse and some of the unkind comments that come along with it, so it's finding that balance. 

    You can't say to a young athlete these days, don't look at social media because for some of the young athletes it's just so ingrained in their life they've grown up going to school using the internet, using social media to connect with their friends and so we want them to be mindful about using it and getting the benefits of it, but then also understanding that there's tools and that your sporting organisation should have ways to help you if you are going through some struggles online.

    Tim Gavel: Did you have any issues with social media abuse?

    Caitlin Bassett: 100 percent. Yeah look, I did. I think I was one of those people that, yeah, definitely opened myself up and was quite vulnerable at times to online and it was a struggle for me, and it transferred to in person. I would play a game, maybe not play well, would get attacked online or someone would question why I should be the Australian Captain, and then I would have to go after a game and sign autographs and being surrounded by fans, in my head I'm thinking 'Are some of these people the ones that are writing these negative comments about me?' and now they're asking for a photo, and they want me to sign and be friendly and open so it can be really hard I think that online persona and who you are offline and really trying to balance the two. 

    But yeah, definitely, for me, I had to pretty quickly upskill and do a lot of work in the way of dealing with what was coming at me at social media.

    Tim Gavel: Yes, it's not just disgruntled fans who are upset with the result or how you're playing, but gamblers who've bet on the game and something might go awry in the game, and they take it out on the players.

    Caitlin Bassett: I know and imagine that. You've finished a game, you're devastated because maybe you haven't played particularly well or you're gutted because it's been a major competition, for example, after finishing Comm. Games and winning silver, which wasn't what we wanted in the Gold Coast in 2018, jumping online for then people to be like 'You've lost me money', 'I had bets on this game', 'I can't believe you', 'How?', 'Why did you miss that goal?', like, 'You've cost me all this', and getting that abuse like that is full on, and you really have to distance yourself from those comments. Like, I didn't tell you to put a bet on that, I didn't tell you to put, to gamble that amount of money and as an athlete, I guess you can't take that pressure into playing cause imagine if every goal that I went to score, I thought about that? 'Oh, I wonder if I'm losing someone money here?' or 'Is someone going to abuse me if I miss this goal?' like that is really distracting. 

    So, I think it's about, if you are reading those type of things or that type of stuff is coming your way online, actively working with someone to be able to put that aside so it's not affecting your performances. 

    Tim Gavel: Do you get the impression at times that sports are at times struggling with how to keep up with everything because there is so much going on at the moment, and in the background, you've got the safeguarding aspect as well, but athletes need to be protected, it's up to the sporting organisation to do that. So, there's a lot of pressure on sporting organisations these days, isn't there?

    Caitlin Bassett: Yeah, there is, and I think it's fair because if the sporting organisation is using your image and using you to promote their brand, they also need to be responsible for helping keep you safe. And I get really frustrated when sporting organisations go 'Oh, we're not going to moderate posts, we're going to leave comments on', and they kind of fuel the fire in regards to letting trolls do their work. And I remember sitting down before World Cup in 2019 with the media department and Netball Australia and saying 'Some of the things that you guys do, it can affect the way that we are treated online. So, when we're posting before the game or, don't ask the question "Who should be the starting seven?" because that's inviting people to get on their high horse and start slagging off players'. 

    Like it's about really taking control as an organisation and setting a standard that 'Well this is what we expect online and if you're going to misbehave, we're going to block you or we're going to turn off comments' because people these days, they see that freedom of speech and 'It's my right. I'm allowed to comment and say whatever I want.' and so that's I think when sporting organisations kind of need to step up and go 'Well, actually that's not the type of behaviour that we expect'.

    Tim Gavel: It sounds like you're going to be able to bring a lot of life skills to this role at Sport Integrity Australia, going out talking to athletes because you have real life experience, don't you?

    Caitlin Bassett: Yeah, I do and it's quite funny as an athlete when you're training and you're in the thick of it you actually think 'Well, I'm not good at anything. Like I can throw and catch netball, and that's great. but how's that going to help me in the real world?' and it's really nice to be working this education role and understand that the things that I learnt during sport is now so relevant in helping me, helping others, and I think that's what really drew me to the education position. Not just because I love being involved in sports still and I love presenting and broadcast and media is a passion of mine, but it's also about helping share the experiences that I've had and helping others and helping them go through potentially an easier time, things that I struggled with. 

    So yeah, there are a few life lessons that I've had over the years, and I love giving back, but also, I love learning off other athletes and at the moment they are in the thick of it. Social media, online abuse is rampant, gambling is rampant, all these, supplements which are getting shoved down players throats by marketing and media companies and things like that. Like, it is a really scary space as an athlete and there is a lot of pressure on them to be perfect, not just on the field or pitch or whatever discipline they're performing in, but to be off it as well.

    Tim Gavel: It's a minefield, isn't it?

    Caitlin Bassett: It is but an exciting one and I guess that's what makes being an elite athlete so exciting. You get the opportunities to do things that other people will not, the good and the bad and yeah, you just got to embrace the opportunities that come your way and learn as you go. 

    Tim Gavel: Have you thought about being a coach or -

    Caitlin Bassett: [LAUGHTER]

    Tim Gavel: Is that that's not in your DNA?

    Caitlin Bassett: I definitely don't have the patience to be a coach.

    Tim Gavel: Okay.

    Caitlin Bassett: I'm working in the player well-being space at the moment which I enjoy because I really like that sports are understanding that wellbeing and treating a person as a whole and not just an athlete is really important to performance, and important to, when a player does decide to leave the sport or retire, that we're going to help them and guide them in the next area of their life because like I see when I walk around here, there's plenty of ex- athletes who come back to sport and come back to present and come back to help others and I think that's what we really want. 

    We want elite athletes to leave the sporting environment feeling supported that they can come back into it and share their experiences to help others. 

    Tim Gavel: You mentioned the ‘R’ word there, retirement. You've been retired for about six months now. How hard is it for an athlete to suddenly go from playing at the elite level as you were and as captain of the team, to suddenly not have that day-to-day experience anymore? 

    Is that an issue that needs to be explored a little bit more? 

    Caitlin Bassett: Yeah. I think the media likes to pump up a fairy tale ending and so, for a lot of athletes, they think 'Oh, I'm going to finish my career on a high', 'I'm going to win a medal, a championship. I'm. going to finish exactly the way I want to and then I'm just going to smooth sail into the next area of my life', but unfortunately in sport, I've found out through talking to lots of other athletes now that it's not that way and there's so many athletes that finish because of injury, because of deselection, because of burnout, they're injured, they've lost passion for the sport or they've no longer been selected and they felt like they've been let down and they walk away very unprepared both physically and mentally for what the next stage of their life is and so, the last six months for me have been ridiculously challenging. 

    I definitely wasn't prepared for retirement, even though I thought I was. I studied while I was playing netball, I had all these bits and pieces going on outside of sport that I thought had prepared me really well, but at the end of the day, yeah, it's literally like you you've been banned from going into the office. 

    You don't have people to train with, you don't have that support that you're used to accessing every day. Even basic things for me like physio, I finished with two knee surgeries and so even just being able to rehab so I could walk properly and get in and out of my car, that was stuff I didn't even have access to, so it can be quite confronting. 

    Tim Gavel: As you look back on your career, have you got a memory that comes to mind immediately? Have you thought well, 'Gee, that was good.' because when you're in the thick of things you really don't have time to reflect, do you?

    Caitlin Bassett: No, you don't have time to reflect because what happens is you set a goal and then you achieve that goal and then the next day, you jump to the next goal and the next goal, the next goal, even if you're hitting a PB in the weights room on the bench press you're chucking on another 2.5 kilos straight away. 

    You're always pushing for the next thing and I think that can be really, you don't realise that as an athlete that you never actually acknowledging the great things that do come your way and when I look back on my career and I reflect a lot through looking through old photos and talking to some of my old teammates and it's not the big tournaments it's not the Comm. Games and the World Cups because reflecting on them, I actually realised how exhausting and challenging they were for me as an athlete. I like playing one game a week, I don't like jamming everything into a week and playing, seven games in 10 days in an elite tournament is exhausting. 

    And so, looking back I think the things I miss most and the things that make me smile most are the tours that we went overseas, we went to Jamaica a couple of times which was always interesting, heading to the UK when it's 40 degrees in Perth, jumping on a plane heading to the UK where it's -5 degrees to go play a tournament then coming back to the heat again, those type of things, going travelling after a tournament over in Europe or the UK I think were things that I remember really fondly. 

    But then, people always say it's the friendships and it's the mucking around at training and it's the laughs that you have and they're always things I think for me now, I'm really lucky I had those experiences.

    Tim Gavel: And just as a final question, I'm sure you could ask this a lot, do you successfully get the exit row in planes still or?

    Caitlin Bassett: [LAUGHTER] Yeah, waiting for the bump up to business class, but that never happens. Yeah, unfortunately I have to pay for that now as well, so that's one of the horrible things about no longer being an athlete, you've got to pay for all your flights everywhere.

    Tim Gavel: Yeah. How tall are you, by the way?

    Caitlin Bassett: 6'4".

    Tim Gavel: 6'4". [LAUGHTER] Yes, I imagine it's a bit of a crumple in 34D or something like that. 

    Caitlin Bassett: Hmm. Hmm. Yeah. So maybe I left the sport too early. I think the girls are getting business class flights now when they head overseas but we never did when we were playing tournaments over there, so.

    Tim Gavel: All the best in your new role. I'm sure it's going to go well, Caitlin, as an Athlete Educator for Sport Integrity Australia. Thank you.

    Caitlin Bassett: Thank you.



    Podcast Transition: And now for our segment ‘From Left Field’, where we answer a question from the public.

    Hayley Baker: Hi, I'm Haley. I'm an Education Presenter with Sport Integrity Australia. Today's Left of Field question is 'Are anti-depressants banned? As a category, antidepressants aren't banned in sport, and there are a number of common medications that are permitted for use in athletes. 

    However, as we know, substances can change overtime, so athletes need to be careful to make sure that they're checking their substances regularly on Global DRO. At the end of the day, your mental health is most important, so be sure to check in with your doctor if you feel like you need mental health support.

    Tim Gavel: Well, thanks for joining us on On Side. I'm Tim Gavel. See you soon with another episode of On Side.



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    For more information on Sport Integrity Australia, please visit our website or check out our Clean Sport app.