Rachel chats to Issy Walker, Chair of Welfare In Sport at the University of Nottingham, to learn more about the group, the work they do with our sports societies, and the importance of mental health in sport.
Why and when was Welfare in Sport established?
Welfare in Sport has been around for a good few years now at UoN. It was originally established to raise awareness of mental health within the sports clubs at UoN – what it says on the tin really!
What work do you do?
You may have seen our logo on IMS or Varsity shirts, but have no idea of the significance of it!
We are a committee of 12 students with a passion for improving the welfare of our peers within our respective sports and beyond. Our main aims are to raise awareness of the ways in which sport can help our mental health as university students, and to improve the provision of welfare support to club members through recognition of the importance, significance and prevalence of mental health issues within the student population.
We can indirectly provide support or signposting to any club member that may need it, by sharing our own knowledge about the welfare support systems in the university and beyond
We mainly do this through maintaining an online presence, interacting with clubs on social media. We encourage every club welfare officer and president to create, sign and share with their members a pledge stating their dedication to promoting welfare within their club. This ensures the club actively thinks about how they can specifically target their own club members, and makes it a little more personal.
Most years you will find us holding a Tinsel Tag tournament. Just before lockdown 1.0 we also held a stall in DRSV to promote University Mental Health Day. We are always super receptive to working with and promoting clubs’ efforts to improve welfare recognition in the club. As with literally everything else this year however, we have gone virtual and have started a podcast – committee members and guests who are big names in mental health in sport both at the university and nationally chatting about what the subject means to them.
What support do you offer and to whom?
We don’t really have strict criteria as to what support we offer – if a club wants us to get involved with any fundraising or campaign they are running, we will do! By targeting clubs (usually by way of their welfare officer or president via our 5 wonderful Club Liaison Officers on our committee!), we can indirectly provide support or signposting to any club member that may need it, by sharing our own knowledge about the welfare support systems in the university and beyond.
By getting our campaign recognised more, the hope is that people will feel able to reach out to us for support should they need it: whether an individual looking for advice by signposting, or a club wanting to improve welfare of their members generally.
We aren’t trained professionals, so can’t offer targeted mental health support ourselves, but definitely can direct people to the most appropriate place to get it!
So many of us know the impact on our wellbeing, both mental and physical, that not being able to do our sport had during the first lockdown
Why is it so important for there to be an emphasis on welfare support?
I think that the current situation we have found ourselves in is as follows: there are two simultaneous pandemics happening at once – the obvious COVID physical health pandemic, but also a lesser realised, but still potentially devastating, mental health pandemic as a result of restrictions and anxiety around the former. We need to encourage people to reach out, and know it’s okay to reach out, before it gets to the point that they begin to struggle to such a point they need medical intervention.
So many of us know the impact on our wellbeing, both mental and physical, that not being able to do our sport had during the first lockdown. This surely proves just how integral sport is to maintaining good mental health.
How have you found the reception of the emphasis on welfare training?
It’s been humbling to see how many clubs want to reach out to us to engage with their members, to see how dedicated welfare officers elected on each committee are, to see that we are in the vast majority of people who recognise just how important providing the means for good mental health is within sport.
For those of us who have had bad experiences in the past, it gives us the hope that things are truly changing for the better within the sporting world, and mental health is being seen as just as important as physical health in ensuring success in sport – no matter how you measure it: on a scale of BUCS points, enjoyment or simply turning up in the first place.
Featured image used courtesy of Issy Walker. No changes were made to this image.
In article images courtesy of Issy Walker. No changes were made to these images.
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