2021: A Pivotal Year for Mental Health in Sport

December, 30 2021

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When HONE launched in 2020, we had no idea of the massive shifts lying just ahead of us. At that time, we were spending most of our time educating sport around the problems we were encountering as sport-focused mental health professionals and what we wanted to do about it. There were certainly many individuals that got it and got behind us quickly but some still didn’t understand the need.

Fast forward to 2021. It’s a brand new world out there.

Simone Biles.
Naomi Osaka.
Michael Phelps.
Calvin Ridley.
A.J. Brown.
Lane Johnson.
Bianca Andreescu.
Valtteri Bottas.
Carey Price…
The list goes on and crosses the full spectrum of sport.

Suddenly we saw articles and mentions speaking directly to the concept of “sport culture” and, with the added strain of the pandemic, the problem of mental health became too big to ignore. FINALLY the dam had broken and the conversations came swirling to a head with a new question at the centre:

“What do we DO now?”

And that is the hopeful new precipice we find ourselves on as we enter into a new year… the time is right for mental health ACTION.

For us at HONE, we are all about helping sport leaders take the needed action steps to better their team culture and create supportive environments.


And as we head into this exciting new time, here are the top 5 mental health facts we would like to leave you with.

  1. Athletes are an under-served population.
    The statistics ahead of the pandemic indicated that 63% of student athletes had experienced or were experiencing mental health issues that impacted their ability to perform. But only 10% got help.* The situation since 2020 has only gotten worse. There are unique pressures that come with competition and sport. There are established attitudes in the “old” sport culture that impede athletes from seeking help. The most important key to improving this situation is to first acknowledge the fact that athletes are uniquely vulnerable. We can’t fix what we don’t acknowledge.

  2. Mental health is just like physical health.
    Just as a knee can sustain an injury, so too can your mental well-being. You can heal a knee and, with the right care, you can heal from emotional distress too. We need to start treating mental health needs just as we would the physical.

  3. Small action is significant.
    The most impactful actions are often very small in nature. If coaches and sport leaders can simply understand how valuable listening and open communication is, a lot of progress can be made right away. We don’t need to wait for expansive educational programs or league-wide policies. Just make sure your players feel seen and heard. Set a positive example for the kinds of behaviours and accountability you want from them. And encourage your athletes to model those same behaviours for the younger kids coming up behind them.

  4. Culture comes from the top.
    Leaders matter a great deal. The tone set by the coach is critical to how the team will perceive the team environment or culture. It has to start with us. There’s a collective mood and shared values in the group, even if it isn’t focused on. By being INTENTIONAL about the culture, you can begin to shape athletes for the better. We’re all looking for a leader to step forward and demonstrate the way to success and well-being.

  5. Whole Athletes are the Future.
    Sport up until this point has been full of exciting records and wins as athletes have striven to push the boundaries of their capabilities. But there is an exciting new frontier ahead in WHOLE athletes. This simply means we are about to test how much further we can go when we are attending to both sides of the athlete; body and mind. With the above examples of athletes who ended up needing to step back at the height of their careers, we can’t help but wonder what might have happened if they’d only had the right support in an ongoing fashion? What if we didn’t wait for the individuals to struggle and put their hand up? We’re excited to find out the answer to that.

    We are grateful for the quick uprising of support that we’ve witnessed over the course of this year. The industry is seeing the way forward and entire leagues are joining onto our platform and investing in wellness supports. The struggles aren’t over and life will always deliver challenges, but together we can make sure that athletes aren’t left alone to handle it alone.

    Bring on 2022. It’s exciting times.

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