A health and well-being Training program for professionals involved with Elite sports

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The following information is a draft proposal designed to help you make the best decision about appropriate health and well-being training. The proposal concerns on-going confidential support for elite sports men and women.This proposal will help you consider whether adjustments to the lifestyle of players, managers and coaches are needed, and ways changes would contribute to better health and improve performance.

Why might well-being training required?

During 2012 Sarah Crompton, a Daily Telegraph journalist in the UK, wrote poignantly about the death of Hanover goalkeeper Robert Enke.Crompton writes eloquently of Robert Enke’s struggle with depression and worries concerning his performance in goal.

Sarah comments:

`In our achievement-oriented society a goalkeeper, the last bastion in defence, can’t be a depressive. So Robert summoned up a huge amount of strength to keep his depression secret. He locked himself away in his illness.`

Concerns about professional transitions such as contracts, transfers and coming to the end of an active playing career can all contribute to an increase in anxiety and a lowering of mood. To protect from emotional pain, anxiety, and fear of failure, elite professionals might subsequently avoid situations, which cause them to feel discomfort in ways that are not easily recognized. Behaviours intended to reduce feelings of distress can add to further difficulties, reducing professional performance. Examples include, increased alcohol intake and use of tobacco, gambling and, in some instances, inappropriate relationships.

In recent years Welsh international football player and manager, Gary Speed’s sister has spoken about his long term depression and has discussed ways in which her brother hid his depression because of the stigma associated with emotional illness. She suggests that he believed that there was no-one he could trust when talking about his difficulties coping with his low-mood. She comments that had Gary Speed felt safe to share his feelings in confidence his mood may have lifted allowing a better enjoyment of football and life more generally.

Another prominent mental health campaigner and ex-footballer, Clarke Carlisle similarly spoke of the difficulties in making the transitions in finding a new purpose and identity following a career in football and his personal struggles with depression because of the need to constantly succeed. Carlisle believes that a culture of stoicism also influences academies.

In later years, we have become to realise that achievement orientated cultures can not only bring about a reduction in professional performance but also lead to a wide range of personal struggles,sometimes lasting throughout life. Media stereotypes are not helpful. When support and protection is required, an elite professional may feel exposed and judged because of the stigma associated with emotional difficulties.

How do I decide whether well-being training and support is suitable for my club?

Research shows that many people benefit considerably from education regarding managing stress and emotional discomfort, particularly when there high occupational demands. However, to make it easier for you to decide whether this approach is right for you and colleagues, we believe that it is important to help you prepare through discussions with our team. You may wish to consider important factors concerningdaily life and managing performance related activities.

However,for everyone,simply discussing issues related to your current circumstances can cause feelings of vulnerability and perhaps more sensitive than usual. Therefore, in order to help you gain best possible support, again we advise you to discuss all topics of concern with our professional team. People often find difficulties with remembering things during interviews, and so you may also wish to make a list of things you wish to discuss with the team, including general concerns or questions about health and well-being. All discussions take place in the strictest confidence and protection of privacy is of utmost concern to the team but also a professional responsibility for all.

Will it be difficult to make changes? 

In some instances, people do need further professional help to find alternatives to current patterns of day-to-day living. For a number of people, there may be issues concerning more complex and long–standing psychological problems. Certain examples might include; compulsive ways of behaving, problems with relationships or types of emotional ill-health, which will require specialized treatment and care. In all instances, life-style coaching may be helpful to gaining the best possible personal and professional outcomes. It may for example, be important to understand the effects of relationship difficulties or resolve family or professional conflicts as well as address general issues impacting onperformance and well-being.

So will my relationships and overall sporting performance Improve?

You may find positive changes to your relationships as a result of managing your well-being more effectively. By way of illustration, you may feel better about yourself and so feel more able to make decisions that were previously difficult because your circumstances . This may bring about changes in your current relationships and you may want to explore ways of coping with these changes with the well-being team. You may also feel the need to replace current ways of coping with stress with other more beneficial activities. You may subsequently find that you feel more focused and so performance increases.

What sort of help will I receive after the training course?

Each member of the team considers your welfare to be their utmost concern.You will receive comprehensive information, to help you make an informed decision about whether to undertake specific methods of addressing stress related issues. You will also receive support; before, during and after your training course from all team members. Appointments can be available with members after your training programme – to review your physical health and emotional well-being. In the near future we hope to develop psychological maintenance in the form of group meetings, although this is entirely discretionary. This may sound a little daunting. However, sharing our views with others in similar circumstances can be helpful.

Proposal for Elite sports Professional Training Programme

We propose initially various presentations concerning the management of health and well-being.

They are as follows:

  • An introduction to the programme and overview of what causes anxiety and the potential effects of long-term stress.
  • Relaxation techniques – including mindfulness training.
  • Cultural and gender and awareness.
  • Appropriate assertiveness.
  • An awareness of psychological factors that may be involved in sustaining well-being in elite sports.
  • Identifying factors that may require further intervention including appropriate methods for coping with day-to-day stress.
  • The importance of appropriate mentorship to safe and effective professional practice and performance.

Wherever required, a more detailed assessment can help, identify potential difficulties and contribute to managing participants in follow up sessions. Each presentation could stand alone or else form a workshop over a morning or complete day.

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