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.
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.
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:
Listen to Derren Witcombe share his thoughts on the pressures players face.
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.
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.
Be specific about some of the things that have made you want to check -in to let them know you’re genuine e.g.
“You seem less chatty than usual” or “I’ve noticed you’ve seemed a little on edge recently”.
Try using open-ended questions to avoid getting ‘yes/no’ answers and make it easier for them to share such as:
“Can you tell me more about that?” or “What do you think is making you feel that way?”.
Give them time to speak without interruption, save your advice for later on. Really acknowledge what they’re saying and let them know it’s ok to feel that way e.g.
“It sounds like you feel….is that right?”.
Even if you don’t have the answers to whats going on, let them know you are there for them and together you can find someone who has the right skills to help.
Be specific about when you will check-in with them next. Saying “I’m here to chat if you need me” can often be too vague and puts the responsibility on them to initiate the next chat. Give them a time and day that you” catch up next.