Coaches

As a coach you play a crucial part in the success of any player both on the and off the field. Coaches can often be one of the most significant role models in the lives of our young people particularly. 

Setting up the environment: Leading vulnerability as a coach

When it comes to the wellbeing of our young people we know that although they are the group most likely to need help they are also the least likely to seek it. Thus, creating an environment where people feel comfortable to speak about their wellbeing and ask for support when they need it is even more important. 

Derren Witcombe, Head Coach of Northland rugby, shares his perspective on the importance of role-modelling vulnerability as a coach to lead the way in showing players it is OK to ask for help. 

Player distress: what are the triggers?

Like any environment, rugby comes with it’s own unique stressors that can make a player more at risk for experiencing depression, anxiety and/or distress. Knowing what these triggers are can give you a head start to ensuring they have extra support during the tough times. 

The 4 most common triggers for player distress are:

  • Injury, especially long-term
  • Retiring from the game
  • Performance pressure
  • High expectations from others

Listen to Derren Witcombe share his thoughts on the pressures players face. 

Common signs of mental distress

As a coach you can often spend as much time with a player as their family and friends. If they’re going through a tough time, you may be able to pick-up on some of the changes. Below are key signs to look out for, particularly if they last for 2 weeks or more.

  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits (too much/little)
  • Outbursts of anger, violence or aggression
  • Isolating themselves from others
  • Speaking about suicide or self-harm
  • Increase in use of drugs or alcohol
  • Not taking care of their physical appearance or hygiene
  • Feeling “on edge” or stressed and anxious

Knowing how to help 

It’s really important to understand that recognising a concerning change in someone else does not then make you responsible for that person. However, it does mean you have a responsibility to do something about it. 

Your actions might consist of something as small as asking them how they are and reminding them of the places where they can seek help.

You can also yourself available and approachable to talk. They might not take you up on the offer straight away but knowing that they have a safe space to offload their feelings when they need to is important. Below are five helpful steps for checking-in with a player or someone you’re worried about. 

- Share what you've noticed

- Ask questions

- Listen and acknowledge

- Remind them they're not alone

- Follow-up