From the TYF Program Manager’s desk… adjusting to our ‘new normal’

words by Tackle Your Feelings, Tuesday 12 May 2020

TYF Program Manager Nick Walsh discusses the key learnings from COVID-19 and virtual learning, including the value now more than ever of informative online resources and engaging content. 

As we adjust to the impact of COVID-19 felt across Australia and the world, Tackle Your Feelings worked on implementing new ways to deliver our program virtually and continue to support community clubs on understanding, recognising, and managing the signs of mental health.

The shift from in-person sessions to online was time-consuming and not withstanding its challenges, however, it has proven a valuable way for us to continue to be able to deliver our mental health training in a time when it is more important than ever.

From the month of April and until this point in May we have run 20 virtual sessions using online conferencing platform Zoom, which have been attended by coaches from around Australia and some even joining from overseas.

Prior to running our first sessions I was concerned about the impact online learning would have on one of the great strengths of the program content, which is its ability to stimulate conversation. However, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by how the sessions have flowed and the engagement between the psychologist and the coaches has been strong. Zoom’s ‘chat rooms’ and ‘chat feature’ allows discussion to happen between program participants, the facilitator (myself) and our psychologists, as it would in normal circumstances.

We can’t wait to get back into community football clubs once the restrictions have lifted, but this experience with complete online learning has provided us with some great learnings that may help us spread the program even further than we first anticipated.

The value in online resources…

As the Tackle Your Feelings program has grown over the past year, we’ve been building our online resources through our e-learning platform – Tackle Your Feelings Online (TYFO). It’s now full of videos, podcasts and blogs, which have been created by our coach/player ambassadors specifically for community AFL coaches.

We already know from BeyondBlue and other mental health organisations that we can expect to continue to see a spike in mental health challenges post COVID-19.

While we can’t speak to coaches in the field at the moment, connecting with them via our social media channels and website has been a major focus.

If you visit TYFO, our social media channels or website now you will some inspiring mental health stories, plus information focusing on maintaining connection, resources specific to COVID-19 and a recap of our road trip through the NSW Riverina region.

Since releasing these resources, we have seen clubs share how they are putting some of these ideas into practice! Community clubs are doing an amazing job to maintain connection with coaches, players, staff and supporters through this time and I’ve loved seeing clubs innovate to replicate weekly staples like Thursday night dinners.

Creating informative and engaging content

A key part of our program remains to raise awareness and education around mental health.

Since the start of COVID-19, we have been working hard to deliver online content that is relevant to this current time but also valuable and informative for our program participants.

Part of that strategy has been around chatting with current AFL coaches and players who have been affected by the season shutdown through Instagram’s ‘Live’ platform. This has allowed us to connect directly with Gold Coast Suns coach Stuey Dew, Geelong veteran Lachie Henderson and AFLW star Karen Paxman.

Through these live connections, we have also been able to engage directly with the general public and create a two-way conversation.

Shortly, you’ll see us release a series of roundtable discussions with current senior and assistant AFL coaches, focussing on how they’ve been connecting with their club and players during the season shutdown and how they shift their focus to the current return to play discussions.

The key messages that continue to come out of these discussions are that footy takes a back seat during this time and it’s been more about picking up the phone and having general conversations with your teammates. The human side is critically important to maintaining strong relationships.

Continuing to work closely with Zurich and the Z Foundation…

As the key funder of our program, we’ve been working closely with Zurich and their charity arm, the Z-Foundation, to connect our ambassadors with their staff on a national and global scale.

Last week, GWS Giants senior coach and TYF ambassador Leon Cameron joined representatives of Irish TYF program in a ‘global connect’ for Zurich employees, focussing on general wellbeing and to explain how the Tackle Your Feelings program supports the community in both Australia and Ireland.  

Ambassadors Nev Jetta and Kara Antonio will this month represent TYF through Zurich’s internal MindFit Program, which is a wellbeing initiative for its employees. They will do live QnA to share some of their personal stories as part of MindFit’s “Feel Good Friday” Campaign.

It’s been great to use this interruption to the program to connect Zurich and its staff with our passionate ambassadors.

What next?

There’s renewed hope that community football might return in the coming months and this is an exciting prospect for our program. We believe that it’s never been more important for community coaches to have the skills to understand, recognise and manage signs of mental health. We will continue to adapt our strategy as the federal and state government advice evolves in order to give as many coaches as possible the opportunity to complete the program, whether that be face-to-face or online.

Keep safe and we hope to see you soon.