Mental Health and Wellbeing in Aussie Rules Footy Clubs

Mental Health and Wellbeing in Aussie Rules Footy Clubs

Mental health needs to be a priority for footy clubs. Mental strength translates to discipline and resilience in the players around a club, while the darker side of mental health challenges has been well publicised in the struggles of elite AFL players like Dayne Beams and Tom Boyd.

Amateur footy is no different. Read on for a perspective on the role of footy clubs in supporting players, and a tool to help coaches and captains check in on their players.

Mental Health in Footy Clubs

Footy clubs are very important to a large number of people. They’re full of people you see regularly, share a group membership with and share a common interest. These clubs are a huge part of our lives.

Alongside exercise, strong connections are key to building and maintaining mental health. Blokes in particular aren’t always that good at sharing problems and seeking help when they need it. Loneliness and isolation remain all too common despite the amount of time that footy players spend together.

Footy Clubs have a Huge Role to Play

Footy clubs have a role to play in supporting the mental health of their members. There are many actions a club can take to support a “mentally healthy” culture. For example:

  • Make mental health a priority – Mental health is a common challenge and the mindset and language of club leaders really matters.
  • Identify a focal point – Identify a champion or small working group within your club for mental health. Support those people (and others) to receive training that fosters mental health in the club.
  • Support awareness campaigns – There is an increasing number of resources available to footy clubs to support the awareness of mental health issues. In Australia, RUOK? is a prominent mental health campaign that has resources available for sporting clubs.
  • Make it normal to chat about mental health – Clubs and coaches have a key role understanding the day-to-day health of their members, through questions like “Where’s your head at today?” and/or “How’s your mental health?” Clubs can also help by ensuring players understand the nature of mental health and have a safe space to discuss mental health.

Sporting clubs have been urged to take a particularly active role in supporting their athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic. If ever there was a time to lift your footy club’s focus on mental health, the time is now.

Sparking Good Conversation in a Footy Club

As they say: “a problem shared is a problem halved.”

Sharing problems is vital to maintaining and building your own mental health. It might be a coach, a captain, a player or just someone around the club that can lend a sympathetic ear.

Get Help to Spark Deep, Honest Conversation

iyarn is an app that’s been built to help people connect to themselves and others. It’s an app that supports groups to develop their own skills to connect and support each other.

iyarn is well suited for footy clubs and coaches to talk about how the players are tracking, on the field and off the field.

How can technology like iYarn help?

An iyarn check-in is a catalyst for conversation and an opportunity to explore mental health specifically. iyarn allows you to:

  • Quickly collect data from a footy team
  • Initiative conversations on topics that matter
  • Monitor data for trends over time

This data quickly builds up. It’s useful for personal reflection, but the primary reason for completing this wheels is as a discussion point with trusted friends, coaches and peers.

iYarn data over time

With some readings in hand, you’ve got a starting point for conversation. This is a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to getting blokes to share feelings and struggles.

iYarn works fantastically with player-coach one-on-ones. Pair iYarn with WhatsApp of Messenger video calls, and you’ve got a tool for keeping engaged with your playing group, even in self-isolation.

Tips to Make the Most of iyarn

iyarn is all about unlocking good, honest conversation between people.

In general, the tips for using iyarn as a spark for conversation in clubs are:

  1. Talk about the positives.
  2. If people are comfortable, talk about the negatives. Note this may take some time.
  3. Talk about progress over time.
  4. Talk about actionable next steps that’ll help to improve ratings.

Getting Your Footy Players Talking

It’s easy to set up an iyarn ‘wheel’ to check in on how your players are doing. The app has 50+ criteria and the ability to choose custom criteria. It’s totally up to you.

If you’re the first in your club, login and build a wheel by downloading the app from App Store (for iPhone) and Google Play (for Android) or use iyarn’s web app if you’re on a desktop. Set up a wheel in a few clicks and then share it to the people you need to check in with.

Check out our slightly longer guide to implementing iyarn in your sporting club here.

If you want help to implement the free app with your club, reach out to iyarn. We’re currently accepting registrations for iyarn’s Connection Workshops for the month of September.

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