Physical activity can be a huge help when you’re dealing with mental health issues, but participating in sports isn’t a free pass. Athletes often need to deal with stress, anxiety and other issues, and just like everywhere else, the stigma surrounding those issues can be extreme.
A collaboration between The Ottawa Senators Foundation, the Do It For Daron campaign and The Royal mental health center is helping young athletes learn how to take care of their mental health without having to face that stigma in the first place.
The Be Game Ready app is intended to keep track of the mental well-being of athletes between the ages of 10 and 16. It tracks moods and offers “All Star Tips” for taking care of mental health – including videos that go through practical exercises for de-stressing, meditating, moving past unwelcome thoughts, and otherwise feeling good.
It also lets kids make their own personalized hockey cards, a fun feature that will probably never be abused by the 10 – 16 set.
CBC spoke to some of the young athletes who are currently trialling the app, and it seems to be going well:
“Our coaches try to make us physically tough and this app can make us mentally tough so it can balance out that way,” said defenceman Marco Peluso.
“I’ve been using the breathing exercises to calm you down and to get rid of all the stress… and there’s this one called the gong meditation, it plays gong music and it relaxes your muscles.”
Chloe Shepherd of the Nepean Wildcats hadn’t tried the app yet, but said she liked what she heard at the launch.
“There are a lot of teams in our league that are really good and I know the competition is hard so when I know we’re going to play against one of those teams it kind of stresses me out because I want to play well and impress my coaches and my friends,” she said.
“[With the app] if i’m nervous to talk to other people about it, I can tell my phone and nobody really needs to know about it.”
While the app can be used to help families and coaches support kids who are dealing with serious challenges, that’s not the context it sets out for its users. Instead, it focuses on the idea that athletes need to train their minds–not just their bodies. By framing mental health care as an important part of any training regimen, the app could prepare athletes for a lifetime of caring about their own mental health.