Our Club Development Officer Matt has a great message to clubs for World Mental Health Day.
Remember Mental Health is important to everyone and the University is committed to providing an environment in which to work and study which supports the wellbeing of all staff and students. So even if you’re not be part of a sports club it’s worth thinking about how this might be relevant to you, whether it’s in your workplace, department, social circles, residences or elsewhere.
One of the best things I get to experience in my role is how Warwick sports clubs can offer such a great sense of belonging and support to their members. Indeed, for a lot of our students their main social group can be found on the pitch, in the pool or on the court.
Below I have listed some key tips to help you promote a positive culture within your clubs to support your member’s wellbeing:
1) Encourage supportive conversations about mental health
Mental health difficulties might not be immediately obvious, so be aware and take an interest in club members’ wellbeing – establishing an exec member responsible for members’ welfare if you don’t already have one. Set the standard for each other, listening and responding to the needs of others to ensure they feel valued, whilst maintaining appropriate boundaries and understanding where to signpost if further support is needed.
2) Organise socials activities which are inclusive of all members
Social situations can sometimes be intimidating at university, especially for first year students, and can often make you feel pressured to comply with group behaviour. Whether students are experiencing mental health difficulties or not, social situations can feel daunting and isolating.
Social events often focus on alcohol, so instead try focusing on putting on alcohol-free social activities, using spaces in student union buildings or doing skill swaps with other clubs to give members the opportunity to meet new people and socialise in a safe environment. Indeed, some of the best social events I experienced as a student involved no alcohol at all, and can often open your club up to new members who otherwise wouldn’t have got involved.
3) Include members in the club experiencing injury periods
Missing training, competitions or fixtures through injury, demanding study or personal circumstances can often lead to a sad feeling of isolation. Keep members involved through social activities or coaching other teams to ensure they don’t lose their support network, and maintain a sense of purpose within your club through difficult times.
4) Remove barriers to participation
Reduce the extent to which students worry about not being able to join your club by being transparent about membership costs, keeping social activities accessible and diverse, never turning someone away. Offer a variety of training opportunities for different levels of ability and share information about buddy and access schemes.
5) Plan a thorough and inclusive induction
Share plenty of information about your club online, through social media and at welcome meetings, including exec members’ details for ease of contact, the flexibility of students’ involvement and what someone should bring to the session. These small steps can have such an impact on whether a student enjoys the club environment and comes back again.
6) Prioritise the individual during intense competition periods and disappointment
The adrenaline-fueled nature of competitive sport is thrilling for some students but can be distressing to others, especially those experiencing mental health difficulties. Discuss expectations; encourage; do not blame and keep any criticism constructive. This goes for any trials or taster sessions and throughout the year. Following a period of high pressure and energy, or after missing out on a place on a team, students can feel lonely and without purpose. Focus on the wellbeing of club members and always offer alternatives opportunities for them to get involved in your club or other university sport and physical activity.
To find out more about sport and wellbeing feel free to contact Matt Nicholson (Club Development Officer) by emailing M dot Nicholson dot 1 at warwick dot ac dot uk.