Let’s first acknowledge that mental health issues are growing in professional football. We have to acknowledge this, because that’s the reality.
The Duke of Cambridge has an initiative, the FA have an initiative, just to name two and there are countless other sporting bodies trying to tackle the issue.
I’ve spoken to many football players in depth about their own issues and issues others have faced and there is a common theme as to why players are struggling more.
Let’s get straight into what I’ve heard from players…
A player is less likely to open up to their club, or someone associated with the club through fear of being ridiculed, exposed or tainted.
A player is less likely to open up to the FA because of the alleged incident with Mike Phenix (This came from a player that knew what happened)
Some Managers exploit players and manipulate their situation. Trust is lost in a moment!
Some players take the word of some people, but these people only have £ signs in their eyes and use the players as pawns
“I FOUND OUT THEY HAD TOLD THE TEAM NOT TO PLAY ME SO MY VALUE WOULD DECREASE!”
With all this bullshit going on, is it a surprise players are struggling?
So why do the initiatives largely fail?
The initiatives tick a box. They promote talking about the issues, yet when it comes to addressing the reasons, the real reasons are largely avoided.
Perhaps these organisations don’t know how to listen in the right way, perhaps they don’t want to rock the boat or perhaps, launching an initiative encouraging players to talk is enough for them?
Remember, I’ve spoken with players that have opened up their thoughts to me.
They have told me stories that would make a great story line for a Hollywood film!
The solution is simple, in my eyes at least.
Firstly understand each player is unique.
There is no one size fits all approach
Any player that’s struggling needs to encouraged to talk without the fear of being judged, criticised or made to feel useless. They need to be allowed to just….talk
The listener must be trained to actively listen, to listen without presuppositions and expectations. The listener must UNDERSTAND the tone of the voice, the unique way the player puts the sentence together and the specific words and phrases the player uses to verbalise their issues.
The listener must know how to help the player reframe their thinking; to look at the situation from a new perspective and allow the player to uncover their own solutions for when a player uncovers their own solution, the path to leaving issues behind suddenly feels easier.
The listener must ask questions that may seem strange, yet at the same time, creates a new thought process for the player.
The listener must be fully engaged without distraction, both internally and externally.
The listener must be discreet, demonstrate confidentiality and not be shared with any media outlet or social media outlet.
There must be an exchange of value for when there is an exchange of value, there is a sense of responsibility. Just as you pay a sports physio to sort out your body, you must pay a coach, to sort out your mental health.
This exchange promotes a sense of ownership and a duty to make change for the better.
There must be an acceptance of their current reality for when this is accepted, you have the truth and only when you have the truth can you begin to explore real solutions
You have to identify your vision with clarity. There has to be an end goal, a purpose of leaving negative mental health behind.
Then you explore solutions. You pick, prod and probe all possible options including the option that many feel are out of bounds, because they are only out for themselves. One such option would be to walk away from the game.
And finally you implement action.
This is how a mental health initiative should work if you want to get real results.
If this resonates with you, then please comment, like and share with someone you feel may help.
I’m leading this initiative and I need your help. If you really want to make a difference in football and create something unique for the players and those up and coming players, I want to hear from you.
There is so much more to this in my bigger plans and I want to share with people who can help create change and disrupt the norm