Words by Guy Walker
A chilly Melbourne night in Brighton was my first chance to look at the Tackle Your Feelings program. The session was held at the small but beautiful Baptist church of Brighton, and the room quickly filled as the Brighton dads & coaches walked in after work. Over the provided spread of food and drink, the men discussed their day at work & how they’re footy teams were shaping up for finals. I was looking forward to seeing the program in full flight to witness the engagement of different club coaches on the topic of mental health.
The session started with program manager Nick Walsh welcoming everyone and thanking them for giving up their time to up skill themselves on the topic of mental health. Dave Williams (TYF physiologist) led the delivery of the program and it was great to see a lot of men who usually don’t speak a lot about mental health sitting around a table discussing their definition of mental health. Dave started out by giving a brief rundown of what TYF is about and explained why being able to understand, recognise and manage mental health is important for a coach. The first activity Dave gave to each table was to write down what good and bad mental health looks like. Each group had five minutes to discuss with the person next to them before sharing with the group, my table consisted of four junior coaches and dads. It was great to see the energy and enthusiasm these dads had towards the topic and we quickly identified ten points.
The second half of the session was Dave talking about how to identify the change in someone that may be due to a mental health issue and how to approach the situation. The engagement from the group after Dave would speak was incredibly satisfying, there was discussion and questions coming at every angle for Dave to answer. He responded by providing suggestions on how we all could deal with different scenarios in the football setting.
Given it was a week night, I was expecting to see everyone to heard straight for the door and into their cars when the session finished but it was the complete opposite. When Dave and Nick wrapped up the program, more discussion erupted on each table with the dads sharing things what was happening at their club and how they could better approach difficult situations. It was clear that everyone in attendance genuinely wanted to make a difference.
For me it was a great experience to see how well the program ran and I walked out feeling heartened knowing how important it is for coaches to value the mental health of their players.
Guy Walker is a 2019 Melbourne Football Club listed player and former Melbourne Renegades player.