Sunday, May 19, 2024

Hockey coach aims for more clubs to make mental health a priority

Rebecca Worthington, a hockey coach and player from the north west, set up an organisation called TEAMReb in 2014 to raise awareness of mental health and illnesses.

Her goal is to ensure all clubs have the resources and tools to signpost and support their members.

Hockey and coaching

I’ve played hockey since high school. I love its fast pace, the constant decision making and of course the competition. Having been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I’ve found playing and being part of a team both beneficial and challenging.

My self critical mind has impacted my performances and my nerves have made travelling to training and games a battle. I’ve continued though, and I’m now playing at Lancaster HC in the north west and I’ve found the competitive environment a pleasant distraction from the noise inside my mind.

I stumbled upon coaching as a way of staying involved in the sport during a long spell away through injury. Quite a few years later now and I’m still coaching. For me, coaching gives me the opportunity to make an impact and be a role model.

The joy of coaching is in the relationships we get to have with the players we teach. To give them a platform to learn, grow, and stretch into their best selves and enhance self-awareness. To empower them and show them that they have the strength and courage to overcome any obstacle, setback, challenge and adversity that comes their way.

Alongside the technical and tactical skills, I think the social and life skills are just as important to develop in our young players.  

Mental Health

I was about 15 when I noticed my mood was low. I thought it was hormones, but then the negative thoughts, low self-esteem/motivation became a daily thing. I didn’t know if it could be fixed so did nothing, I spent five years in silence. Even with lots of friends, I felt alone. It got so bad, I contemplated ending my life.

I then realised I needed help.

At a GP appointment, I wrote, “I think I have depression” on a piece of paper, handed it over and burst into tears. That was the first time I’d told someone. It was a massive sense of relief.

One in four adults experiences a mental illness, but we still don’t talk about it enough. When I started TEAMReb in 2014, it was a blog about my mental health. I now have funding to run workshops in schools and sports clubs, especially with young people. We talk about noticing if their friends are withdrawing, and work on ways to start conversations and look after themselves.

Rebecca with Rio gold medallist Helen Richardson-Walsh

Growing up we are told to “stop crying, sort yourself out, get on with it, pull your socks up.” Anything else is too much. And so we hide our feelings, we minimise them, we act, we put masks on, we compose ourselves and we fit in. What happens, though, is we bring up young people in environments where their feelings and emotions are considered unacceptable, unreasonable, invalidated. We need to normalise all types of emotions. 

How we can help

People worry they’ll say the wrong thing. But it’s about letting them know ‘I may not understand what’s going on, but your feelings are valid and I’m here to support you’. Remember that being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice. You don’t have to try to “fix” anyone; you just have to be a good listener. Often, the simple act of talking face to face can be an enormous help, and just be willing to listen without judgment. 

I hope by sharing my story more hockey clubs will begin to make their members’ mental health a priority.

Does your club have a trained mental health first aider?

Do you know how to signpost someone to local support services?

Would you know the signs of someone struggling with their mental health?

Could your club join TEAMReb’s campaign to raise awareness?

Start conversations in your club today. Make a difference. Start a mental health team talk and stick together.

Talk to your GP if you’re worried about yourself or a loved one. You can also find advice at

Do you have a feature or story idea from across the globe? Get in touch with us!

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