"Build the mental muscle and smash boundaries" - Pioneering female umpire rules resilience as key

13 October 2017

  • Claire Polosak, the first ever female umpire in Australian men’s List A cricket history talks about challenging stereotypes, pushing past self-stigma and building mentally resilient leaders - on and off the field.

Claire, a former high school teacher and now Cricket NSW’s Female Umpire Engagement Officer, learnt the power of mental resilience early on in her career where she experienced sexism and negative stereotyping by a male coach in the UK, who excluded her from umpiring a boy’s school cricket team because she was a female.

“To experience this mentality first hand was a big shock. It made me question my ability, and doubt my career aspiration to be an umpire … but it didn’t stop me,” said Claire.

“I have always made sure that I have surrounded myself with a support network who helped me remain resilient and allowed me to bounce back and work twice as hard to break the mould,” added Claire.

On 8 October 2017, at the JLT One-Day Cup match, 29-year old Claire led the charge for women in cricket, stepping into unchartered territory in the men’s game and becoming the first ever List A female umpire in Australian cricket history after years of “chipping away at the barriers.”

“I never thought a girl from Goulburn would be entrusted with such a great opportunity. It was an extremely special and humbling moment for me … one that took nine years of determination and dedication,” said Claire.

“It has not always been easy paving a path … and I’m not ashamed to admit I have had low points and battled anxiety before umpiring games because of the self-stigma and pressure I put on myself. I’ve had to overcome personal and professional barriers continually … and doing that can affect your mental wellbeing if you don’t build the mental muscle,” added Claire.

Failing to build the “mental muscle” is costing Australian businesses $10.9 billion every single year*, with consequences including high staff turnover, impact on staff engagement, increased absenteeism, reduced productivity and expensive compensation claims or fines for breaching legislation.

"Pressures on the field and in business are rising, with 92% of mental disorder claims attributed to work related mental stress**. Leaders in every field need to focus on building mental resilience in order to survive and thrive in their industry,” said Matthew Bacon, CEO, JLT Benefit Solutions and Recovre.

Claire attributes her success to building mental resilience from a young age and advises future leaders to learn to love failure, visualise success, tackle adversity strategically in “bite size chunks”, have a strong support network and invest in evidence based mental and wellbeing training.

“Like any muscle, mental resilience can be built - it’s just about knowing how. Recovre, a JLT Group company, specialises in training and consultation, with a team of Allied Health (including Psychologists and Rehabilitation Counsellors) and Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) specialists that provide a range of best practice wellbeing programs to meet workplace requirements. For athletes and corporate employees, adversity can strike at any time, whether it is a physical or psychological injury … what’s important is how we deal with these setbacks,” said Matthew Bacon.

“Being mentally resilient, you are equipped with the skill and speed to bounce back, push boundaries and break barriers whether in the boardroom or on the field like Claire.”

JLT is the official risk partner of Cricket Australia.

*PWC 2014, Creating a mentally healthy workplace: Return on investment analysis, Sydney, viewed 9 October 2017, https://www.headsup.org.au/docs/default- source/resources/beyondblue_workplaceroi_finalreport_may-2014.pdf?sfvrsn=90e47a4d_6

**National Occupational Health and Safety Commission 2014, National data set for compensation-based statistics, Canberra, viewed 9 October 2017, https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/system/files/documents/1702/national_data_set_compensation- based_statistics.pdf

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Name: Diya Ingleshwar, Public Relations and Communications Executive, JLT

Phone: 02 9290 8075 / 0409 369 557

Email: Diya.Ingleshwar@jlta.com.au 


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