Mental Health in the AFL
The AFL recently made a statement that they believe mental health is a bigger issue in their sport than drugs or gambling. This has lead to the allocation of $75,000 per club for mental health support. They will also appoint a mental health manager for the AFL to address the mental well being not only of the athletes and players, but also for the staff and coaches as well.
It’s All About Attitude
In my view, mental health in sports is about the attitude of the player. These are high-performance athletes at the top of their game. They aren’t unhealthy, but some of the practices and thinking patterns may be unhealthy. We with high-performance athletes, coaches, CEOs and administration teams, to help them to change the way they think about mental health.
It is a step in the right direction that the AFL is paying attention to the well being of players and supporting them to become better ambassadors and role models. What the players really need however, is to work on a high-quality, high-performance attitude, that serves them well in dealing with the internal pressure of elite performance.
In high-performance sports, it is not uncommon for players to step away from the game for a period of time when they start to feel mentally burned out. But in my experience, it is the player applying pressure to themselves through self-judgement and fear of failure.
No one can stop burnout except the athletes themselves. First and foremost, they need to see how they are creating their own experience and take responsibility for their thoughts. They need to understand that there is no external pressure. It looks like there is pressure from the fans and the media etc., but actually it's the athlete that is creating pressure in the way they are thinking about what the fans and media say and do.
Once the athletes understand how they are creating their own internal reality with the expectations they place upon themselves, they start to see that the design of this strategy has a positive intention (usually a motivation strategy for example), but a negative outcome (usually feelings of inadequacy). When they realise that they are not achieving their positive intention, we help them to create a new high-performance strategy. High performance sports people require high-performance strategies.
Awakening True Potential
The Coaching Room is about awakening people to their true potential through how they create meaningfulness in what they do that drives their actions and behaviours to be and do things differently. In other words, we look at what is working and seek tom understand how to make it work even better.
Sometimes there is self-doubt running as an internal polarity, which is associated with the self-belief structure of the personality. The athlete first needs to sit down and understand what is truly going on internally, beyond what they are aware of. We call these blind spots. This could be the self-beliefs and beliefs about reality that are no longer serving them. We help them put these old beliefs down so they can self-actualise and become the potential that they are.
Coaches of the Future
In our experience, it is also critical to get the coach in the right frame of mind. Coaches not only have to run their own brain, but they have to influence and awaken players to their potential. Coaches are leaders. Leadership is the ability to communicate effectively, influence and engage their players through making every aspect of what they do meaningful. The coaches role is to provide clarity where there is confusion. To simplify, frame and focus their message. This is the element of coaching that in my experience most coaches miss – it's not about making things more complicated, it's about simplifying things, which can be done with precision, by understanding of how language works. Coaches can transform their language in order to be better received by the listener. Coaches must go past the tactical and technical to become developmentalists themselves. In my view, these will be the successful coaches of the future.