A focus on club wellbeing pays you back in spades

The social isolation experienced by so many club members during the COVID-19 lockdowns, has bought into sharp focus the need for sporting clubs to modify how they operate and to make nurturing the mental wellbeing of their members a centrepiece of their operation.

Prior to COVID, SALT was working with a lot of clubs on their values, on how to modify drinking cultures, manage drug and alcohol problems as well as surfacing mental health and anxiety challenges amongst their teams.

As we emerged from lockdown, it became evident that there would be a lot of damaged people in the sporting communities who had suffered social isolation as well as loss of income, challenges to their self-respect and a whole range of other issues. We established our Club Wellbeing Team (CWT) concept and have successfully rolled it out across a number of sporting groups.

In simple terms, what are the steps to consider when looking to take your sporting club to club that provides a more holistic caring for their team members?

  1. Develop a mental health and wellbeing policy. Think it through – what do you want to achieve, how do you want to achieve it, what budget can you afford to allocate (if any) and what are your resources amongst your club community? Create a document that identifies all of these.
  2. Create a Club Wellbeing Team and arrange for them to be trained in how to identify people who are struggling, how to handle an approach from someone who wants help, and what resource are available for them to recommend. Establish connections with local mental health professionals.
  3. Promote your initiative to your entire sporting community. Get their buy-in.  Publicise the contact details of people on your CWT team.

The payback

Clubs that embrace the role of caring for the wellbeing of their players are rewarded in a lot of ways:

  1. Greater engagement in the club by players, greater engagement in the club by the community at large.
  2. The knowledge that they have played a role in helping people overcome issues and lead a happier life. Maybe even saving lives.
  3. A culture that is more inclusive, more caring and richer for everyone involved.
  4. The clubs thrive – with parents keen to have their children join a club that is genuinely welcoming and inclusive and cares about the wellbeing of their players, not a club that has a win at any cost mentality.

The Grovedale Cricket Club and the South Barwon Cricket Club are two clubs who have fierce on-field rivalry that spilled off-field in an ugly incident.  Led by Brad Clarke, Grovedale Cricket Club President and Damian Gorman, South Barwon Cricket Club Coach, these clubs then worked with SALT to re-set their value and culture.  They established a CWT and got buy-in from all their members.  They promoted a mantra of “On the field we are fierce competitors and off the field we are all on the same team.”  They are thrilled with the results – with the positive change around both clubs.

Brad Clarke says that they have had some small yet profound changes. “What we’ve seen is a real intent by the playing group to create different conversations with each other.”

He explains what they’ve done: “As a club we are about being a supportive and inclusive community that want to be successful – not only on premierships and wins.  We have created a Club Wellbeing team who are advertised on the club walls and can be a touch point or contact point for anybody who is not feeling so well.  I am not saying we will be providing counselling; it is literally a touch point for those who feel like they need someone to lean on.”

COVID has triggered the opportunity for a re-set button at all sporting clubs.  An opportunity to be so much more than an organisation that trains players and organises competitions. To be an organisation that embraces a higher purpose and actively works to shape and mould and care for the young lives that join their club.

If you are interested in setting up a Club Wellbeing Team at your club, SALT can help you.  For more information on our course, go to https://sportsandlifetraining.com.au/courses/senior/

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