Rugby leading from the front to support mental wellbeing

Coaches and management from 18 of New Zealand’s leading rugby teams, including the All Blacks and Black Ferns, have demonstrated their ongoing commitment to mental wellbeing in 2021 by completing Mental Health 101 (MH101) training.

All Blacks Head Coach, Ian Foster (Getty Images).

All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster, who completed the training alongside All Blacks management and coaching staff, said the training demonstrated a positive shift in acknowledging the role everyone plays in looking after the wellbeing of themselves and others.

“Like lots of sports, rugby is a pretty unique environment that comes with some equally unique challenges. We’ve come a long way with our awareness of the triggers that can impact an individual’s wellbeing, and the role we can play in supporting everyone in our team.

“Creating an environment where our staff and players feel comfortable to speak about their wellbeing and how to ask for support is key, even more so as we navigate the challenges and uncertainty that Covid-19 brings.

“It’s fantastic to have had this training rolled out to all of our professional team staff and is reflective of the importance rugby is placing on the mental wellbeing of everyone involved.”

Led by New Zealand Rugby’s (NZR) mental health and wellbeing programme, HeadFirst, and funding partner Movember, the workshops were delivered to coaches, team management and key leaders from four national teams, five Super Rugby clubs and nine Provincial Unions, as they continue to build supportive and positive environments in rugby.

Drawing on best practice, the workshops explore mental wellbeing through different cultural viewpoints and are designed to provide participants with the confidence to recognise, relate and respond to people experiencing mental health challenges.

NZR Mental Health and Wellbeing Programme Manager, Suzie McDonald, said it was important to educate everyone within rugby about the role they play when it comes to mental wellbeing - not just players.  

“We know that sustainable change needs everyone to be on board so supporting our staff, management and coaches to be able to have conversations about mental health and feel comfortable doing so is just as important as the work we do with players.

“It’s fantastic that management and coaching staff from 18 of our high-performance environments are open and supportive of conversations about mental health and are eager to learn about their role in enhancing our game”.

About HeadFirst

HeadFirst launched in March 2017 and aims to increase awareness of mental health and wellbeing within rugby and challenge the stigmas associated with talking about it, particularly amongst young men.

HeadFirst targets players, whānau, coaches, referees, volunteers and supporters in the rugby community and delivers face-to-face workshops to professional and community players, alongside  a range of free tools and resources.

Note: Anyone seeking advice on mental health or wellbeing, or experiencing stress, anxiety or depression, can free call or text 1737 to chat to a trained professional