As the focus turns squarely on Tokyo with Australia’s opening match against New Zealand, the Westfield Matildas have been provided with additional support resources with the recent hiring of a national wellbeing manager.
Football Australia has appointed former Australian Netball representative, Janet Drakos, to lead and manage the wellbeing of female footballers in the national team programs.
Working in high-performance environments as an athlete, performance and team manager for over 20 years, Drakos understands the importance of the new position in a world where the wellbeing of athletes is more paramount than ever.
“With the demands now placed on players, Football Australia has identified and prioritised the wellbeing and engagement of its athletes,” said Drakos.
“It’s part of the holistic approach that needs to be taken to be the best in the world and for sustainable success for the Westfield Matildas.
“We want to encourage and promote a culture of excellence both on and off the pitch. This approach involves identifying and delivering the right services at the right time so they can be the best that they can be.”
It is a vital role that can translate to the performance of players on the pitch said Westfield Matildas forward Kyah Simon.
“For us as footballers, receiving individualised care in other aspects of our life away from football is crucial,” she said.
Knowing that I have a person dedicated to my wellbeing and that can help guide and assist me in areas away from the game, helps me to be able to focus more on my football and not have those stresses weigh on my shoulders along with playing.”
In her 14 years with the Westfield Matildas, Simon is no stranger to stressful or pressure situations.
In fact, the striker has thrived in them scoring Australia’s winning penalty at the 2010 AFC Women’s Cup and a historic goal at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup against Brazil.
At the highest levels of the game, pressure is baked into the big moments and often how players deal with those situations has direct correlation to how they are placed outside of that white line.
“Football Australia is committed to promoting a psychological healthy and safe environment for its women’s programs,” Drakos said.
Being a leading female sporting program in the world will only be achieved through dedication to the technical components of the game, as well as empowering our female athletes through a full range of services in the areas of mental health, moving to professionalism, career development and education, community engagement and personal and professional development.”
Although football has at times been all consuming, Simon has worked diligently on creating a balanced life filled with education, giving back to the football community and building up career experiences that will assist now or in the future.
This is where Drakos’ appointment has already been beneficial.
“Janet has been really great to work with,” said Simon. “She has good energy and is a new voice and a friendly person to bounce ideas off, or just to have a chat about different opportunities or, different avenues to explore to fill in spare time as an athlete. “
“I've had a couple of conversations with her and it's really nice to know that someone's looking after your life away from football, as well and guiding you in that space.”
As well as working with established players like Simon and members of the senior team, Janet Drakos will also assist players on the other end of the spectrum as she supports the Westfield Junior Matildas and Westfield Young Matildas just starting on their national team journey.