In June, Athlete365 ran the first in a series of exclusive online workshops designed to upskill athletes’ commission chairs. The session focused on how to hold an effective webinar.

The second workshop was held on 8 and 9 September, and this time aimed to help the chairs have courageous conversations and speak up constructively on behalf of athletes.

Athlete365 also has a suite of other resources designed to help athletes’ commissions to be effective.


According to a recent study, over 70 per cent of people avoid having difficult discussions, which include giving negative feedback. On 8 and 9 September, we invited NOC and IF AC chairs from five continents for an exclusive online workshop led by expert facilitator Jenna Clarke to discuss best practices for giving and receiving feedback, and having courageous conversations. Here is our resulting step-by-step summary.

What is a courageous conversation? Courageous conversations are those discussions that we would rather not have, that leave us with a feeling of dread in our stomachs, often for fear of escalating the situation or making the other person feel bad. Giving other people honest feedback is something that we often resist, even when it’s positive. However, sharing your thoughts in an open, neutral and non-judgmental way can make you feel better, improve the relationship, enhance productivity and save time, money and energy.

Viewing feedback as a gift When we think of feedback, we often think of delivering feedback to others. However, how and if we receive and request feedback can strongly influence how receptive others are when we are the ones sharing. When receiving feedback, you should always be grateful say thank you, no matter what you think of the content; avoid the temptation to defend yourself; and ask clarifying questions, or for a concrete example if it’s going to be helpful. An effective athletes’ commission should always request feedback from its community, and when you do this make sure you ask ahead of time; be specific about what you would like feedback on; and always thank the athletes for their feedback.

Dealing with your fear Before ignoring a situation, you should ask yourself what the consequences are of not having the conversation, and whether you can comfortably live with those consequences. If you decide to have the conversation, proper preparation and the correct mindset ahead of time are essential – and simple if you follow these tips. First, reflect on what you want to achieve during the conversation, what you want to be different afterwards, and how you would ideally like the relationship with the other person to be after the conversation. Then, before having the courageous conversation, ask the other person for permission to share your feedback with them. Now, you are ready to use the “SOMA model”.

The SOMA model SOMA is Greek for body. These conversations have a very physiological impact when we don’t have them and physiological benefits when we do. It is a simple four-step model, which is based on the principles of non-violent communication.

S (Situation/context) – The situation is… O (Observed behaviour) – What I’ve observed/noticed is… M (Meaning to me) – The impact on me/What this means to me/How it makes me feel/think is… A (Ask for perspective) – What’s your perspective? How do you see things? Keep each sentence short so that it is less work for you and easy for the other person to absorb and process what you are sharing. After completing SOMA, ask some of the following questions: How do we move forward? What would you propose? How can we get back on track? Who can help? What do you need? How can I help? Would you like some time to reflect on what I’ve shared? Just like a sport or a new activity, this model requires some practice. Start using it in lower-stake contexts and apply it to other situations as you feel more comfortable. This model works well professionally and personally.

For expert advice on how your athletes’ commission can hold an effective webinar, click here.