Meet your new TAAG Chair – Becky Wilde

Rower Becky Wilde believes there has never been a greater need for targeted support as elite athletes in education come to terms with the coronavirus pandemic. We caught up with our new TASS Athletes’ Advisory Group (TAAG) chair.

TASS: Earlier in the year we checked in with you to find out how you’d adapted to life under lockdown. Has the situation improved?

Becky Wilde: In terms of training we’ve been pretty much back to normal since the beginning of September. I’m back in Bath and on the water again but as far as gym work is concerned it’s still pretty restricted. The majority of the training I do on the water is in single sculls so there’s no problem with social distancing. It’s only once we reach the regatta season that we’ll move into bigger boats but that’s some way off right now.

TASS: How difficult has it been to motivate yourself during the summer without any competition and only a staged return to full training?

BW: I trained throughout lockdown although it wasn’t what I was used to. It was a bit of a struggle towards the end as I just wanted to get back out on the water and do what I love. Being on my own – as an elite athlete used to being around other rowers, coaches and support staff – was difficult. On the other hand, it was great to spend so much time with my family. I have to look for the positives and take the wins where I can get them and it was great to have the whole of August off. I actually came back to rowing physically refreshed and a lot happier mentally.


TASS: What does the immediate future hold for the rowing community?

BW: Normally there would be head races at this time of year. I liken them to rowing’s version of cross country running. They’re time trials and they would be taking place at this time of year. In November we’d take part in the first round of national trials but they’ve already been cancelled and so it looks like it will be January at the earliest before we can look forward to any kind of serious competition. Our progress can be checked on the rowing machines and that’s keeping us on our toes. Our traditional season doesn’t start until May so fingers crossed we’ll be back up and running by then. I really hope so!

TASS: What’s your experience of TASS so far?

BW: I was supported for two years from 2018 to 2020 as an athlete in full-time education. I was immediately blown away by the range and the level of support available – everything from S&C to lifestyle advice. It was an obvious step up from the level of athlete support that I’d been used to in the past and being a TASS athlete felt very prestigious.

TASS: Can you point to a specific experience that brought home the true value of TASS support?

BW: I’d only just become a TASS athlete when I suffered a serious long-term injury. I was out of the boat for 12 months and so for most of that first year on TASS I was recovering from a double hip operation and rehabbing. Without TASS support I wouldn’t be rowing now – it’s as simple as that. The medical scheme allowed me to recover fully and I couldn’t have managed – physically or financially – without it. I can’t think of a better example to illustrate the value of TASS!

TASS: Can you see TASS support becoming even more important as elite athletes navigate the coronavirus era?

BW: Definitely. I know that TASS athletes will be well looked after in the coming weeks and months. There is a team of practitioners at hubs across the country looking out for athletes and anticipating what support they might need. Virtual check-ups have become increasingly popular and TASS will support its athletes with a combination of remote and face-to-face support. I think we’ll see the scheme come into its own. TASS has always been in a position to best help those student athletes most in need of support and that support is needed more than ever. It’s going to be tough for a lot of people before sport returns to some kind of normality.

TASS: What are the biggest challenges facing athletes right now?

BW: I think the fear of the unknown is really starting to affect people. Nobody knows week by week what’s going to change and whether it will suddenly become easier or more difficult to do what you love. One week you could be training as a team and the next you could be told to train alone. As elite athletes we’re used to structure and hitting targets. It’s a challenge in itself not having that structure and trying to adapt to a situation where there is no competition to aim for. It’s just a case of trying to stay injury free and stay positive. Like everyone else I’m trying to stay motivated and get through this in one piece.

TASS: What persuaded you to apply for the role as TAAG chair?

BW: It’s a really good stepping stone for me. I’ve been a member of the group for a couple of years and I have experience as a student rep. I was on the student sports executive committee at university and I’ve always been about students in sport having a voice. In that respect the TAAG chair’s role just leapt out at me. It seemed like the most obvious thing to do. I graduated in the summer but I’m still passionate about enabling positive change in student sport and the TAAG role allows me to still be involved at that level. I mentioned before that I benefitted from TASS support at a very difficult time in my career and so this is also a way to put something back into the scheme. I know how well it works and the good it can do.

TASS: What would you like to achieve in the role?

BW: I’m hoping to have a fairly broad remit and do as much as I can. For the time being the focus has to be on ensuring TASS is in the best position possible to meet the changing needs of students at what is a very difficult time. It’s such an unusual time to be an athlete and, as I mentioned, there’s a lot of fear. We recognise that it’s a pretty scary time but we need to assuage those fears and stay on top of a fast-changing situation. I want to make sure that TASS support is still the best support that a student athlete can possibly get.

TASS: How important is it that TASS students have a voice and that their voice is heard?

BW: TASS does a brilliant job but TAAG is the link between the athletes and the staff and practitioners. Unless you’ve been an elite student athlete it’s impossible to understand the unique strains and stresses associated with that dual career approach. As someone who has experienced it at first hand I hope I can relate to current TASS athletes, get their views across and ensure their voices are heard.

We will soon be recruiting new members for the TAAG – please look out for an email about this and consider applying!