Local footy has always been great for fitness and social wellbeing, especially in a decade that is consumed by technology and stress, but even at a local level, players face significant pressure to win each week.
The Eastern Football League (EFL), an Australian rules football league in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, are community partners with BeyondBlue who advocate for football players’ mental health.
BeyondBlue said that they really wanted to encourage the football community to “start conversations, reduce stigma and increase support-seeking for anxiety, depression and suicide prevention within the football community”.
On May 12-13, the AFL Victoria BeyondBlue round commenced, where Victorian players showed their support by wearing blue tape around their wrists.
The CEO of BeyondBlue Georgie Harman said, “the support the football community provides to players on the field is powerful and we want to encourage people to provide that same support off the field to foster good mental health”.
Even though the campaign only comprised of Victorian teams, it raised awareness amongst local teams as well, especially those that aspire to play at a higher level.
Marcus Alessi is a 20 year old that previously played with the Collingwood VFL, he now plays for the EFL team Doncaster Sharks and can feel the pressure at the weekly footy games.
“There is definitely an amount of stress put on you to perform to a certain standard each game, but I personally put a lot of pressure on myself to play at a good level. It makes you feel better when you help get the win,” said Marcus.
There are external pressures that can affect a player’s game, whether it be from family or friends, and even high profile athletes that may come to watch the games.
“I try not to let what other people say affect me. It can be quite tough to hear negative feedback about your performance from other people watching, and I will second guess my skill,” said Marcus.
The stigma that surrounds the image of being a ‘manly guy’ has previously halted players from talking about their mental health, however more high level athletes have started to talk about their own issues encouraging wider debate.
“The game should be about having fun, and even though getting the win is important so is your mental health, it’s not good putting pressure on yourself. I always try make sure the guys are ok after a tough game especially with injuries. It’s good to check in on each other,” said Marcus.
If you are experiencing anything related to mental health you can get in touch with Beyondblue. It is never too late to seek support.