AFLCA, AFLPA and the Zurich Foundation launch Tackle Your Feelings program

words by Staff Writers, Thursday 23 May 2019

The Tackle Your Feelings mental health training program launched last night with the delivery of the first face to face session to more than 25 community coaches from Melbourne’s south-east region.

The session, held at the St Kilda Football Club, was designed to give coaches an introduction to the key concepts of the Tackle Your Feelings program before undertaking their online modules and receiving club accreditation.

AFL Players’ psychologist Matt McGregor said the face to face session provided an important platform to begin discussions surrounding mental health and how coaches can play a role in supporting their players.

“(Coaches) don’t have to be experts or therapists but they’re in really prominent positions with their players,” he said.

“Having an understanding of what mental health involves and being there for any of their players who might be experiencing mental health problems can do a world of good.”

St Kilda player Dylan Roberton, who was in attendance for the session, said it was important for coaches to understand what their players may be experiencing with the increased pressures of social media and scrutiny.

“Having a few injury setbacks it’s been massive for the club to be supportive of me in terms of keeping me busy and giving me a role to keep me included,” he said.

Unable to play this season due to a heart condition, Roberton has been working closely with the Saints in a coaching and mentoring capacity and said he was thankful for the support the club has provided him as he faces the challenge of not being able to play.

“Our club (supports players) really well and it’s much appreciated from the players when the coaches have a good understanding of what we’re going through.”

Beaumaris senior women’s coach Blake Wadley attended the session to develop a better understanding of mental health and what his playing group, who range from 17-38, may be experiencing in their day-to-day lives.

Mr Wadley said the opportunity to learn how to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health and then take those skills back to his club was invaluable.

“You can’t see what people are thinking inside so being able to recognise those signs is the big one for me,” he said after the session.

“(I want) to be able to take skills back to the football club, the other coaches and the playing group and to hopefully build on it and show people that football isn’t just about playing but it’s about so much more.”

AFLCA CEO Mark Brayshaw said it was important for coaches at the grassroots level to understand mental health and become better equipped to support their playing group.

“From a mental health perspective, there is no difference between the player-coach relationships at the elite level than there is as grassroots level,” he said.

“The Tackle Your Feelings program will help grassroots AFL coaches by equipping them with an understanding of mental health so they can look after their players if and when they need it.”

The Tackle Your Feelings program is a partnership between the AFL Coaches Association, the AFL Players’ Association and the Zurich Foundation and will be delivered to 25 community clubs and more than 250 coaches during the pilot year.

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