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The importance of listening: engaging and incorporating the athlete's voice in theory and practice
  1. J R Weissensteiner
  1. Correspondence to Dr J R Weissensteiner, Athlete Pathways and Development, Australian Institute of Sport, Leverrier St, Bruce, ACT 2616, Australia; juanita.weissensteiner{at}

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The ‘voice’ or perspective of the athlete is commonly unheard in research and practice relating to athlete development. This is seemingly ironic, given that ‘the athlete’ is purportedly the central focus and they have lived the experience, making them a truly qualified ‘knowledge expert’.

Gary Hall Jr, a five-time Olympic gold medallist and advocate, started proceedings at the recent IOC Consensus meeting on youth athlete development in sport by reflecting on his experiences as an athlete. What he shared was insightful and compelling. As the meeting progressed, invited experts voiced their shared concern regarding issues relating to athletes’ welfare, well-being and development, including depressive illness, burnout, role strain, eating disorders, injury, bullying and harassment. It was recognised that a concerted research and coordinated support effort must be taken to further understand and address these issues. Central to achieving this, effective engagement of the perspective of the athlete is critical.

It is well accepted within the contemporary literature that an athlete's performance, at each stage of …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.