Club’s vary wildly in how well they manage people’s health and well-being. There’s a bit of ‘that’s not my problem’, sometimes. Other times, people simply don’t know how to help.

If someone has or is thinking about asking for support, they’ll only follow through if they feel their peers encourage reaching out and are prepared to meaningfully support them in whatever way that person needs.

When a club commits to becoming a place of respect, fun, fairness, safety and success, by definition, it’s committing to an intrinsic involvement in the well-being of its people.

There will always be issues of health and well-being in any community of people. It’s extremely likely that more of your peers than you realise are grappling with issues like anxiety, depression, grief and loss, eating disorders, an abusive relationship, a drink or other drug problem, problems at home with the kids or issues at work.

Sports clubs are no exception. In fact, they’re the place people are most likely to seek support, and so are enormously powerful.

  • Equipping your People with Support

    Equipping your people with the confidence and resources to reach out and support one another in the club, is equipping them to do the same outside of it, too. Now, those are some serious skills.

    Step 1 – Become more aware

    Key people in the club need to be across the common well-being issues likely to be expressed in and around the club. Some recent survey research found that on average:

        • Kids tell 5 people before anyone does anything about their issue
        • 1 in 5 people are dealing with a mental health issue
        • Family violence is the fastest growing area of crime in our community
        • More than a million kids are living in households where their carers’ drinking is a concern, and about 10,000 of those children are in the child protection system as a consequence of their carers’ drinking
        • A third of all deaths of young men are due to suicide.

     

    Step 2 – Import some training

    This can be really tricky terrain for clubs. If someone confides in you, there are three important principles to adhere to: 

        • First, you need to respect their privacy. Loose talk is out of bounds. 
        • Second, you need to listen carefully and with the utmost sensitivity.
        • Third, you need to be able to suggest a way for the person to get help. This doesn’t mean you have to fix it, or that you have to be an expert or know what help is available, but you can ask their permission to take it to someone in the club who has relevant information of the available help for that person’s problem.

     

    A club should actively seek out relevant, authoritative professionals and ensure that all the key people in club are exposed to this level of education – including the coach, president and team manager.

    There’s a lot at stake here and your club needs to get it right. Make sure, at all times, there are strong understandings of basic do’s and dont’s when it comes to dealing with people on issues of health and well-being:

        • observing protocols
        • providing safe listening
        • preserving confidentiality and
        • responding effectively

     

    See Club Respect’s B.A.S.I.C guide for supporting members.

     

    Step 3 – Establish good liaison with health professionals

    Every club operates in local communities where there are health professionals and other experts who would be only too willing to lend a hand to a well-intentioned sports club.

    One surefire way to start this relationship would be to host a session at your club where you invite doctors, other health providers, teachers and counsellors to attend and brief your club on issues of well-being in your local community.

    You will need to ensure the qualifications and experience of your presenter. We suggest contacting the peak bodies responsible for providing information and support on mental health, such as Beyond Blue, for a list of preferred practitioners.

     

    Step 4 – Advertise community support services

    Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint these among many. If you are unsure of the best sources, start by having a conversation with someone in your local council community services area or with well-known health and well-being organisations. Post core information resources up in your clubrooms, on notice boards and on the club website.

     

    Step 5 – Bring in guest speakers

    There are always people who will be prepared to come to your club and share their insight and advice on topics regarding people’s well-being, on matters ranging from child and adolescent health, diet and nutrition, mental health, violence, abuse and healthy relationships. If you are unsure where to start, you can always contact the Club Respect team with a phone or email enquiry.

     

    Step 6 – Moment in time support

    Good practical support in the moment. It’s important that your club provides appropriate support if members and supporters become unwell or get hurt at the club.

    Put together reliable and up-to-date emergency information covering such things as strokes, heart attack, serious falls, or other accidents on site. The club should be vigilant about uneven surfaces, cracked paving, slippery stairs and so on.

     

    Provide an MPIO in your club.

    Member Protection Information Officers (MPIO’s) can act as a point of contact for people seeking support. They’re trained to offer independent information and advice. Play by the Rules offers a free MPIO training course.

  • Listen and Act on Feedback

    People in clubs need to feel confident that they can have their say and know that they’re being heard and respected. Members become frustrated if:

        • they aren’t listened to
        • club officials react defensively
        • constructive feedback isn’t acted upon

    Sometimes clubs don’t even bother to provide decent feedback mechanisms. Some people think it’s okay to air their opinions in aggressive and destructive ways, which doesn’t help either.

    A club aspiring to be a place of respect, safety, fun, fairness and success will make sure that it has good processes for hearing what it’s supporters and members have to say. These clubs act on feedback in ways which are transparent and meaningful. They see listening to their members as opportunities for growth.

    Step 1 – Create opportunities for people to give their feedback

    Informally

        • Ask some members and supporters during a game their opinion on aspects of the club.
        • Put an anonymous suggestion box in the clubrooms.
        • Think about nominating a member of your committee who might take this on as one of their roles.


    Formally

        • Have a clear and well-publicised process in place that allows people to bring that issue to the club in a constructive and safe manner.
        • When new people come to the club, make sure they’re aware that the club values their opinions and point to the processes the club has in place for giving feedback.


    If your club has the capacity, nominate someone who you feel people in and around the club would feel comfortable talking with.
    Their role would be:

        • Acting as another point of contact for members to provide valuable feedback
        • Helping people deal with issues as they arise
        • Helping with members’ well-being and club culture generally
        • Helping the committee devise and enact solutions that are relevant and practical to members.

    Most people don’t talk just to listen to their own voice. People want to connect. By all means, be discerning, but trust people when they’re talking about their own feelings and experiences.

     

    Step 2 – Act on it

    When someone listens and acts constructively on the feedback, everyone wins. It could be as simple as:

        • Saying to someone that you will take the matter up with the committee
        • Doing so
        • Then reporting back the outcome.
        • If the outcome is a reasonable response to the feedback, it will usually be accepted in good faith.

     

    Step 3 – Point people in the right direction

    Direct people to the most appropriate person to talk to if it isn’t yourself. This ties in with the need to have known processes in place for people around the club to give feedback.

  • Importance of Volunteers

    The 10 Golden Rules of working with Volunteers:

        1. Mutual respect, trust and decency underpin club operations across the board.
        2. Everyone’s lived experience and wisdom is acknowledged and appreciated. Make optimum use of this wisdom and experience by finding out the individual skills and strengths each person brings to the club.
        3. There’s reciprocal value adding: volunteers value-add to the club and the club value-adds to the experience of volunteers.
        4. Real work and real tasks around the club are purposeful and roles are clear. Volunteers are consulted as to their choices with tasks and aren’t confined to menial jobs.
        5. A good fit or match is sought between the volunteers and the club. This requires close listening, discussion of interests and background, imaginative allocation to tasks, supporting them with good orientation to the club and, where appropriate, training at the club.
        6. Volunteers are constructively supported into working semi-autonomously. Self-confidence increases  with the honing of skills and broadening of experience. It’s crucial that they aren’t set up to fail or overwhelmed by tasks and expectations that are too great.
        7. Apart from club officials, volunteers generally shouldn’t be placed in positions, or on tasks, within the club that places them into a management or decision-making responsibility or liability. All roles and responsibilities around the club need to be clearly defined with this in mind.
        8. Trust the common sense and capacity of volunteers to work to their best sides, this enables volunteers to flourish in the club.
        9. Volunteers need to genuinely feel that they’re part of the show.
        10. We all recognise that the greatest asset of any club is its people – volunteers are part of this asset base – and worthy of investment.
  • Member Well-being

    Clubs have a wonderful opportunity to create a place that contributes positively to the well-being of people in the local community. A scan of the factors affecting our communities’ health and wellbeing right now, gives us insight into the needs of people in our clubs.

    Here are some telling facts:

        • 1 in 4 Australian students are experiencing bullying.
        • 1 in 5 Australians have experienced symptoms of a mental disorder in the past 12 months.
        • There’s an average of 8 suicides per day in Australia.
        • Australia has one of the highest rates of reporting of sexual harassment in the world.
        • Family violence is the leading cause of illness, death and disability for Australian women between the ages of 17-45.
        • Alcohol’s annual burden to Australian society is $36 billion, with direct costs to government nearing $10 billion.
        • The social cost of gambling to the community is estimated to be at least $4.7 billion a year.

     

    We can expect these national trends, as well as others, to be reflected in our clubs. Sport mirrors society. So, what role is there for sporting clubs in helping their members who are dealing with these issues?

    If you look back at the data, you’ll notice that all of these issues are preventable. That is, with the right information, provided in the right way, clubs could, at a minimum, educate people about the causes and cures of these diseases.

    Below are some helpful tips and resources to educate yourself and your members about some of these serious, life changing factors. Most importantly, these resources give you the language to talk about these issues and point people to places where they can access help.

    You’re not expected to be an expert in disease prevention. But you can be a vital link between your club members and the information and resources that can contribute to their well-being.

    Bullying

        • Bullying is the repeated and intentional targeting of someone aimed at hurting them; it’s not a one-off event.
        • It’s a form of violence that manifests in different ways; verbal abuse, psychological and emotional abuse, physical actions, manipulative and covert strategies and through social media.
        • Bullying is present in all parts of society and is something that all sporting clubs need to contend with.
        • Get expert advice at Play by the Rules and Rosie

     

    Depression and Anxiety

        • Depression and anxiety can be difficult to observe in others. You might notice changes in a person’s behaviour like becoming more withdrawn, being highly stressed for a prolonged period, or fluctuating suddenly between the two.
        • The best thing sporting clubs can do is keep messaging to their members about signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety and where they can go to get help.
        • Get expert advice at Beyond Blue and Rosie

     

    Suicide

        • The rates of suicide in the Australian population are extremely high. This means that it’s likely that clubs will have members who are having suicidal thoughts or have friends or family who is dealing with the suicide of someone close to them.
        • Clubs should message to all members to be ready for when a person comes forward to discuss their suicidal thoughts. We’ve developed the BASIC guide to help you in these moments.
        • In these situations, the key is really listening to the person and supporting them to access advice from the correct agencies.
        • Get expert advice at Lifeline and Beyond Blue

     

    Family violence

        • The rates of family violence in Australian society are in epidemic proportions.
        • Your club should expect that there are members who are either a victim or perpetrator of family violence.
        • Clubs should message to all members to be ready for when a person comes forward to discuss family violence. We have developed our BASIC guide to help people with these moments.
        • Club members should support these people by linking them to the following support services.
        • Get expert advice at 1800 RESPECT and Our Watch

     

    Alcohol

        • Sporting clubs are often dealing with the impact of alcohol in and around the club.
        • Club Respect recognises the wonderful work that Good Sports have done in this space to support clubs, check them out.
        • Get expert advice at Good Sports and Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF)

     

    Drugs

        • There are countless issues caused by drugs and drug addictions in our society. Sporting clubs will definitely see the impact of drugs upon people in their community.
        • Club Respect recognises the excellent resource of the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) and recommends you utilise this as a resource to assist you to support your members.
        • Get expert advice at Alcohol and Drug Foundation

     

    Gambling

        • So many social issues in our community are linked to problem gambling. Your club is likely to have people who do have a gambling addiction.
        • The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation is an excellent resource to help people dealing with gambling. It also has resources to help you with your messaging around the club.
        • Get expert advice at The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation

     

    Member Protection Information Officers

        • Member Protection Information Officers (MPIO’s) can act as a point of contact for people seeking support. They are trained to offer independent information and advice.
        • Get expert advice at Play by the Rules (free MPIO training course).