The Commonwealth Games are here! The Birmingham 2022 Opening Ceremony takes place tonight (Thursday 28th July), and to celebrate these home games, we are highlighting the work being done by EIS (English Institute of Sport) practitioners as part of Team England. Today Faye Hodson, Athlete Health Coordinator, tells us about her role during the Games.
Faye Hodson is looking forward to the atmosphere of another home games, after experiencing a “wonderful vibe” at the European Championships in Glasgow back in 2018.
Hodson, who will have been with the EIS for eight years come September of this year, will be working as part of Team England’s Operations set-up, and will be based at the athletes’ village at the University of Warwick.
She found out that she had been selected for the role while out in Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, having served as Performance Services Coordinator in Japan.
Explaining that role, Hodson said: “I was based between the lodge and the village, looking after the medical services – the doctors and physios, making sure athletes were booked in, their needs were being met, that kind of thing.”
One year on from Tokyo, Hodson has landed herself a role which covers “pretty much anything and everything”. She added: “It’ll be everything to do with the village – handing out keys to athletes for their rooms, making sure they’ve been assigned the right rooms, doing pool car bookings, meeting room bookings.
“I’m also looking after the central bookings email, so the doctors and physios can email that address, and I can book appointments for them at the various villages.
“A lot of it, I won’t know until I get there, because you hit the ground and see what happens. The first couple of days are what they call ‘bumping in’, where we set up the village to look like Team England – moving sofas in, putting up branding, sorting out a welcome desk, putting welcome gifts into athletes’ rooms.
“Then, once the Games are over, we have ‘bumping out’ – removing everything that we put in! The day-to-day stuff I can’t know until I get there, and every day will probably be very different. If anyone has an issue they’ll come to us, we speak to our team leader and try to resolve those issues.”
In taking on a role which demands such versatility, Hodson is helped by her experience with the EIS, which features a wide range of world-leading disciplines working as a network to deliver the best possible performance support to athletes and sports.
Hodson explained: “Yes, definitely [it helps]. Particularly working with the Athlete Health team, because we work across such a broad discipline – female athlete health, mental health, respiratory health. One minute I can be doing something with female health, the next it’s mental health.
“Prior to my current role I was Medical Administrator at Lilleshall, and your day can be going normally, then the doctor calls up and says they need an urgent referral for an athlete, and your priorities change. Being in the EIS, it’s about knowing how to change your priorities.
“Those priorities will be different but also similar in the Commonwealth Games, in that the athlete is the main focus. Working in the EIS is good for that, because you know that the athlete and their needs are the main focus.”
The learning process is a two-way street, of course; just as Hodson can use her EIS experience at Birmingham 2022, she hopes to take things back with her once the Games are over.
“It’s also an opportunity for me to increase my knowledge of elite sport, learning new things while you’re there, because it’s amazing what you pick up,” she said. “It’s a whole new group of people I’ll be working with [at Birmingham].
“Everyone’s from different backgrounds, so you pick up things from working with them. You’re a bit of a sponge while you’re there, and you can take those learnings back into your day job.”
It clearly means a lot to Hodson to have been chosen for this role, as part of Team England, and for these Games to be on home soil, too.
“I’m really proud [to be selected] because it sort of reflects that I’m good at my job. And it’s pride at representing your country. OK, it’s a different way of representing, but you’re still doing that, you’re still putting on the kit of a country – whether that’s Team GB or Team England, Team Scotland, Team Wales – even if you’re not going out on the same stage [as the athletes].
“It’ll be very different to Tokyo, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Covid-19 mitigations will look – we’ll still have them, but they won’t be quite as stringent as Tokyo, and it’ll be nice to see how a games runs like that. The vibe in Glasgow when I was up there [in 2018] was wonderful, with everyone getting behind the sports and more media coverage, while that was limited for us in Tokyo.
“When we were out in Tokyo and you spoke to family back home, you’d ask if there was the same buzz around the Olympics that there normally is, given the Covid measures and there not being crowds there, and it was hard to gauge that sense of whether people back home were watching it and following it. With a home games we’ll know that, because we’re in it!”
So, what would a successful Commonwealth Games look like for her?
“I’m hoping that I can do my job well, and that the athletes have an amazing experience, whether they win medals or not,” Hodson said. “As long as they have an amazing experience with Team England and the Commonwealth Games, I think I’ll have done my job, as that’s what I’m there to do.
“Some of these athletes might never go to another major event like this – Lawn Bowls and Netball, they don’t compete in the Olympics. This is their Olympics, so I want to make sure they have the most amazing time.”
Click here to visit the Birmingham 2022 website.