Welcome to our guest blogger for October, the wonderful Carmen Taplin, Wellbeing Manager for New Zealand Rugby League. Carmz has extensive history in the world of rugby league and I had the pleasure of working with her in the most recent NRLW season with the NZ Warriors. She played a pivotal role in our campaign and as she explains below, it is critical to have wellbeing management for athlete performance:
The role of the Wellbeing Manager in a rugby league environment is to ensure the athletes are educated, aware and are supported with everything off-field associated with careers, physical (sleep, nutrition etc.), psychological, family and relationships, community, culture, spirituality and finances. These are the eight dimensions of the NRL Wellbeing Wheel and are what we base our Wellbeing Plan discussions around. My role as the Wellbeing Manager is to make sure there is care and support provided from a whole of person approach and that I am trusted to be that go to person for help if and when it is needed.
In the recent NRLW Warriors campaign we introduced Sir Mason Durie’s Maori Health model ‘Te Whare Tapa Wha’ which translates to Four Walls of the House. These walls represent Taha Whanau (Family), Taha Wairua (Spirituality), Taha Hinengaro (Mental and Emotional) and Taha Tinana (Physical) and in order for us as individuals to flourish, all four walls of our house need to be functioning well. If we aren’t looking after each of the four walls with equal importance then the house becomes unstable and is at risk of falling down. This is an easy analogy I use when trying to explain what wellbeing is. We need to have that balance and as we know in high performance sport this is not always the case.
When in campaign for 4-6 weeks the approach I take is more of a nurturing role. With the NRLW Warriors campaign we had 16 players and staff living away from home for that duration and it was imperative that I created a safe, warm and non-judgmental space that allowed them to feel comfortable and to trust the wellbeing support that was on offer. I spent the first week in camp having one-on-one check ins with live-in players ensuring they understood my role was to make sure they were supported from a mental and emotional perspective and that no matter what or when, I was there for them if they needed me. The essence of home is so important especially with so many away from their families so creating an environment that was safe and nurtured the whanau (family) feel was critical for me and enabled the players to flourish on and off the field.
Whether players are battling with things outside of sport or if they are injured and trying to adjust to rehab life, I would encourage athletes to reach out to the support networks that are on offer or to a trusted person in your Club if you are in need of mental and emotional advice. There have been so many people I have helped along my wellbeing journey that have struggled in silence for so long, sometimes years, because they were too shy or too embarrassed to reach out. We are all human, we all make mistakes and we are not perfect, and although we often have the answers and solutions ourselves, we all need that someone just to listen with zero judgment and to help guide us to what the next steps may look like. There are so many people out there in wellbeing support roles that are driven and motivated to help others. I am most certainly one of them.