Clubs 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 it’s people.
In any community of people there will always be issues of health and well-being. 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 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.
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:
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 is 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:
See Club Respect’s B.A.S.I.C guide for supporting members.
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.
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.
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.
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 a 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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
When someone listens and acts constructively on the feedback, everyone wins. It could be as simple as:
If the outcome is a reasonable response to the feedback, it will usually be accepted in good faith.
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.
The 10 Golden Rules of working with Volunteers:
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:
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.
Understanding what bullying really is.
Depression and anxiety can be difficult to observe in others.
The rates of suicide in the Australian population are extremely high.
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. Play by the Rules offer a free MPIO training course.