New mental health partnership to inspire Irish cricketers

27 July 2020

A new partnership between Cricket Ireland, the Irish Cricketers’ Association and Inspire Workplaces will see the Belfast-based mental health support service provider working with the Ireland men’s and Ireland women’s senior squads to tackle the stigma that still exists around talking about mental health in sport and to educate others on the psychological challenges players may face both during and after their career.

New mental health partnership to inspire Irish cricketers

Inspire Workplaces is an award-winning social enterprise, formed in 2000 as part of the Inspire Group, with a focus on mental health support through counselling and other therapeutic interventions. Inspire Workplaces currently provides wellbeing support to over 800,000 people in 300 organisations across the UK and Ireland, including a number of sporting bodies: Sport NI, the Irish Rugby Football Union, the Gaelic Players Association and the Women’s Gaelic Players Association.

The partnership was facilitated by Sport NI, following a project to develop a bespoke online wellbeing support hub for the sporting community in Northern Ireland.

John Conaghan, Inspire Group Director of Professional Services, said:

We’re delighted for the opportunity to work in partnership with Cricket Ireland and the ICA, and through the Player Support Programme, to help build and support resilient, psychologically informed and engaged players.

The Player Support Programme provides a range of tailored mental health prevention and intervention services designed to promote and protect the wellbeing of Cricket Ireland’s elite players. Support services include a 24-hour telephone support line, counselling, psychological assessment and high intensity interventions, addiction support services and access to a range of online wellbeing support tools and resources.

Our specific aim with Cricket Ireland is to develop a culture amongst the players that promotes resilience, de-stigmatises mental health issues, informs, engages and encourages them to actively seek support when they need it.

Inspire Clinical Lead for ROI John Duffy said:

Sportspeople are people first and with that comes the normal demands of day-to-day life. Often what happens off the pitch can have a significant impact on what happens on it. Added to that, professional sportspeople have the demands and pressures that playing at a high level can bring - be it performance anxiety, coping with injury or being away from their loved ones, to name just a few.

Access to a psychological support service provides players with a confidential space to more effectively manage and mitigate the personal and professional demands placed upon them.

William Porterfield, President of the Irish Cricketers’ Association, said:

“It goes without saying that good mental health and wellbeing is important for all of us - and the events of recent times have shown how important resilience and coping are to our general health and outlook. It’s no different for sportspeople, whether professional or amateur, and that is why the ICA and Cricket Ireland were keen to develop support services for its members that focused on the mental and emotional aspects of cricketers.

Cricket may be a team sport but you can still feel isolated and uncertain in the closest of team environments. And in those environments, not everyone has the same willingness to put their hand up if they feel something isn’t right or they aren’t coping. That’s where we see this service being a positive for our members – to be that anonymous, free and non-judgemental sounding board for cricketers who may be trying to deal with the stresses of life, both inside and outside the game.

It’s great to have the senior men and women covered, and we are now looking to secure funding for a player development manager at the ICA who can oversee a roll-out to the wider membership. Our thanks to Inspire and Cricket Ireland for being so supportive of this partnership.

Richard Holdsworth, High Performance Director for Cricket Ireland, said:

Mental health support is an area we have identified as needing investment over recent years. Cricket is as much a mental game as physical game at times and we recognise that players’ on-field performances are not played out in a vacuum. The stresses and strains of everyday life, being apart from family and friends for much of the year, or dealing with the disrupted nature of touring life can all impact upon the wellbeing of players.

We are pleased that the ICA and Inspire were readily open to this partnership and this programme is yet another piece of the support structures we are building to enable our elite players to reach their potential.

Peter McCabe, Director of Performance at Sport NI, said:

Sport NI has been working with Cricket Ireland, developing and delivering psychological support around improving on-pitch performance and off-pitch wellbeing to their senior international players. A governing body culture that supports both the holistic wellbeing of the athlete and the performance of our athlete should be commended. We are delighted that this additional support is now being made available to assist those players in most need and to promote in sport the proactive management of our mental health and wellbeing.

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