Building a mental health game plan

words by Bree Van Ryswyk, Friday 11 February 2022

With pre-season drawing to a close, we are eagerly counting down the days until the kick off of the 2022 community football season. Footy clubs have spent the last few weeks preparing teams for the year ahead with match simulation, fitness testing, and strength and conditioning. Many clubs have also been focusing on their values, and identifying who they want to be as a club. We’re seeing that clubs are also prioritising wellbeing rather than focusing solely on physical performance. Research shows a strong connection between physical and mental health, and the necessity of both for player success and performance – fit minds kick goals, remember! In line with this holistic approach, we’ve got some considerations for how you and your club can support mental health to create a wellbeing game plan. Just like in a footy season where the premiership isn’t won in round one, these initiatives can be implemented across the course of a season to help you achieve sustained success. 

  • Check in. Open the line of communication with staff, committee members, players and parents. Offer opportunities to chat, join players in the warm up or grab a coffee. Chatting whilst engaging in an activity like a warm up jog can take the formality out of the conversation and put the player at ease.
  • Connect with your local psychologist. A key aim of the Tackle Your Feelings Program is to link coaches and footy clubs with a local psychologist resource. They can provide your club with a range of resources including individual psychological support, answer any questions in relation to your response to mental health, or present on a particular area of interest.
  • Complete the Tackle Your Feelings Program. An effective way to connect with a local psychologist is through our program. Tackle Your Feelings is free, delivered by a local psychologist supplied by the program and aims to help participants gain the tools to understand, recognise and respond to mental ill-health in their players. 
  • Set up a club well-being team. Identify a group of people to commit to being the club’s well-being team. If connected with a local psychologist, involve them in regular meetings to implement initiatives or changes to the club. Promote the role of the wellbeing team around the club so that players understand where they can turn to discuss support.
  • Raise awareness of mental health amongst the club. Plan events with a mental health focus such as signing up to a mental health round (e.g. a Tackle Your Feelings round) or acknowledge key mental health dates or campaigns at the club (e.g. RUOK day and Mental Health Week).
  • Plan activities. Your club is more than the performance and outcome on the weekend. Plan activities that foster social connection and fun such as post training dinners, club trivia nights, or nights out to watch the AFL.