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PLAYER WELFARE

HEADSPACE

Headspace is an online health company specialising in mindfulness and meditation.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Headspace is unlocking a free, specially curated “Weathering the storm” collection of meditation, sleep, and movement exercises in the Headspace app for people around the world, available in English, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.

To find it, Download the Headspace app (also available on Android devices) and follow these instructions:

  • You will be prompted to enter your personal details
  • Select ‘What’s on your mind’ from a list.
  • If you would like to start with the completely free content, simply click on the cross at the top of the page to access this. (There is also the option to sign-up for a free two-week trial, which will lead into a paid subscription. Please note, Weathering the storm is different from the two-week free trial.)
  • Next, tap on the Explore tab at the bottom and you will find the Weathering the storm section at the top of the list.

GENERAL ADVICE

It is an unfortunate reality that some professional sports people can experience mental health problems. Having to perform at the highest level on a regular basis under the media spotlight can bring many worries and pressures. However, more and more sports people are speaking openly about the problems they have had to deal with and this is helping with the development of better information and advice. Here are some helpful tips that have been reproduced with the kind permission of the Professional Cricketers’ Association:

10 WAYS TO LOOK AFTER YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

These have been re-produced with the kind permission of the Professional Cricketers’ Association.

Talk about your feelingsTalking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. It’s part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy.
Eat wellThere are strong links between what we eat and how we feel – for example, caffeine and sugar can have an immediate effect. But food can also have a long-lasting effect on your mental health.
Keep in touchFriends and family can make you feel included and cared for. They can offer different views from whatever’s going on inside your own head. They can help keep you active, keep you grounded and help you solve practical problems.
Take a breakA change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. It could be a five-minute pause from cleaning your kitchen, a half-hour lunch break at work or a weekend exploring somewhere new. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you.
Accept who you areSome of us make people laugh, some are good at maths, others cook fantastic meals. Some of us share our lifestyle with the people who live close to us, others live very differently. We’re all different.
Keep activeExperts believe exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep, look and feel better. Exercise also keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy.
Drink sensiblyWe often drink alcohol to change our mood. Some people drink to deal with fear or loneliness, but the effect is only temporary.
Ask for helpNone of us are superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things go wrong. If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help.
Do something you’re good atWhat do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing in the past? Enjoying yourself helps beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it and achieving something boosts your self-esteem.
Care for othersCaring for others is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you. It can even bring you closer together.

TRANSITIONING

There is a growing body of evidence that ‘single-mindedness’ is not the route to the top and it can lead to problems such as ‘identity foreclosure’. Some research studies have suggested that having a broader range of interests can actually improve performance. The idea that other interests will take a player away from valuable practice time is being challenged and is being replaced by the idea that it’s important to have other interests. An organised lifestyle that combines practice and competition with secondary interests (e.g. music, cooking, another sport, etc.) will help to reduce stress. Another idea for a secondary activity is study (e.g. learning a language, academic study, etc.) which not only provides a meaningful distraction from the pressures of professional sport, but can help to reduce the risk of mental health problems when the time comes to think about a second career.

Towards the end of 2018, the World Players Association published a research document related to the transitioning of sports people from a professional playing career to a second career. Some of the key findings were as follows:

Preparation
  • Education is important: Qualifications help to gain post-career employment.
  • Players who prepare for retirement transition easier to their next careers.
  • Sound financial planning is very important.
Coping and support
  • Close relationships and having another career to retire to help players to cope with their retirement.
  • Support from family and friends was indicated to be the major source of support for players during the transition from sport.
Health
  • The majority of players were satisfied with their subsequent careers.
  • To avoid ‘identity foreclosure’ players need to develop in areas outside of playing sport.
  • Influences on players’ mental health include involuntary retirement, career dissatisfaction, change in body perception, injury, health issues and loss of identity.

There is a helpful guidance note titled ‘Personal development and welfare‘ that covers athlete identity and career transitioning in more detail.

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