Last year, when we first went into lockdown, I remember a wave of overwhelming frustration, my teeth clenched. I was angry and upset. I was about to take a big role in my career and a circumstance in my personal life was about to change for the better, both of which got put on hold at just the wrong time. I’m also not a homebody, I can’t sit still and get cabin fever at the best of times.
Watching the news roll in, I immediately thought about my mental health, something I’ve always been acutely aware of, and the potential damage to others'. I set up a mental health group on social media pretty much straight away, mindtalk, and then had a conversation with Giles, somebody I’d worked with previously on radio, now my co-creator on My Sporting Mind. He told me about some of his own struggles with mental health and his thoughts on using other people’s stories to help those in need. And that was that: we decided to do something together, knowing there were so many other people feeling the way we were.
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With My Sporting Mind I wanted to use sport, something so many of us love and also have in common with each other, to show that mental health and the feelings around it are so much more common than we realise. Some of the greatest achievements in sport have come through struggle and some of the most incredible sportspeople have experienced the same kind of lows you or I might experience. My Sporting Mind is all about normalising these conversations, to show that talking about the tougher side of things takes strength, not weakness.
Sadly, even now, there is still an undertone of mental health being about weakness, and shame, which is such a powerful emotion in itself. It can be the difference between getting help and suffering alone. It can spiral, making us feel even more embarrassed and even worthless, which further suppresses how we are feeling and keeps us in a low place. We wanted to help show that how we are feeling, opening up about what we need, and speaking to others is a show of enormous strength.
The more we hear relatable stories of mental health - the battles, yes, but also the coming out of the other side - the more we can understand our own wellbeing and eliminate the stigma behind it.
In My Sporting Mind’s first season we had Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster talking about anxiety, rugby’s Chris Robshaw on depression, footballer Ryan Bennett on self-doubt, Australia’s cricket coach Justin Langer discussing the toughest moments of his career and the lessons he’s learnt, speed skater Elise Christie taking us through the aftermath of her Winter Olympics heartbreak and England cricketer Kate Cross on perfectionism and how it prevented her from developing.
For our second season I'm really proud to partner with Sporting Life, as we delve into a range of sports and athletes from football and rugby, to Olympians as we look ahead to Tokyo, over to horse racing, boxing, darts... you name it. We really hope you enjoy listening, that it puts a smile on your face, and that in some way it helps you get through these difficult times.
For anyone struggling with their mental health, or just feeling the need to speak to someone and be heard, then call free and anonymously: