There is no doubt a positive mind-frame can help reduce stress and increase our overall enjoyment of life. Our psychological fitness is a key factor in how we respond to challenges, feel about ourselves and our ability to reach our full potential. As we begin to talk about the benefits of good mental health more openly, strategies such as Mindfulness and Meditation are coming to the forefront and are being implemented everywhere from educational institutes to elite sporting clubs.
The resources invested in how we talk about mental health as a society is reflected in the steps that the AFL, the AFL Players Association and AFL clubs have been making to help players improve their psychological well-being. Player development managers, independent psychologists and dedicated well-being spaces are not uncommon at clubs as teams search for new ways to strengthen emotional resilience and improve focus amongst players.
Rising AFL star Tom Campbell knows better than most the rollercoaster ride that is playing footy at an elite level. After missing out on the draft he was picked up as a rookie in 2011. Tom participated in several VFL Grand Finals, while narrowly missing the Bulldogs historic 2016 flag where he was named as the team’s first emergency. Tom attributes his own emotional resilience to his ability to react positively in the face of adversity and ride the highs and lows that go hand-in-hand with life as an AFL footballer.
Tom visited Macleay’s Melbourne campus to speak with students about resilience and how it has enhanced his capacity to perform at an elite level. He shared a few strategies that he implements regularly to support his well-being and improve his focus:
- He regularly attends sessions with his club’s psychologist to chat about life both on and off the ground and has embraced the chance to ask for help and support before problems arise.
- With players now having a dedicated day off during the season, Tom ensures that he uses this time to focus on life outside of football and prepare for when he hangs up his boots, an important prospect considering the average career for an AFL player spans just 4 years.
- Tom takes advantage of an app designed to help regulate breathing which allows him to manage stress hormones before a game and improve his sleep patterns.
- Since focusing on mindfulness, Tom has taken on several mentors both and outside the club to help guide him.
- In a high-pressure role and under intense media scrutiny, Tom never underestimates the power of good humour (be sure to ask Luke Beveridge for a joke if you bump into him.)
Macleay has long been an early adopter of positive education practices. Over the last 30 years, Macleay College has built a vibrant and creative environment where students are encouraged to investigate new ideas, critically analyse the professional world and continually pursue challenging career goals. Macleay’s Positive Psychology unit helps students explore and understand human behaviour and how psychological fitness can be influenced by how we think.