Episode 44 - Jake Edwards

April 10, 2019 31 min read

Episode 44 - Jake Edwards

   

  

In this episode, Jake Edwards tells us his challenging but inspiring story of being a football athlete to founding his not for profit organization, Outside the Locker Room. He also shares tips on how to help others who are experiencing mental illness, their app, their upcoming projects and tips and advice for listeners.

‘Outside The Locker Room’ is dedicated to supporting sporting clubs, schools and workplaces for their welfare and education requirements across Australia. Outside the Locker Room focuses on areas such as mental health, drugs, alcohol, gambling and domestic violence. Their program educates and brings awareness to these topics. Their passion is to not only educate but provide a safe, secure and private welfare platform for individuals to access 24/7 in a time of need.

In this episode we cover: 

  • His inspiring story of why he started Outside The Locker Room
  • The common denominator of people who experience spiralling down.
  • Tips and advice for listeners or friends of listeners who may be in a compromised position in terms of helping someone who they think might have a mental illness or themselves, personally.
  • His plans for coming to New South Wales.
  • The offerings of the Outside The Locker Room App
  • Plans for Outside the Locker Room programs
  • Requirements for being a Community Ambassador for Outside the Locker Room.
  • Jake shares an inspiring story on how one of his programs had a huge and positive impact on one of the athletes.
  • Their recent partnership with Cycling Victoria and a video series that’s about to be launched in the next few weeks called “Two Wheels to Listen”

Links

Transcript:

FELICITY:

This is Episode 44. Welcome to the All Torque podcast, where each episode we interview an inspiring person to share their story with you. I'm your host, Felicity Dales, managing director of Body Torque.

I have here today Jake Edwards, the founder of ‘Outside The Locker Room,’ a non-for profit organization dedicated to supporting sporting clubs, schools and workplaces for their welfare and education requirements across Australia. In relation to their daily challenges, Cycling Victoria partnered with Outside The Locker Room in November 2018, creating awareness along with its program of mentoring children to adults and cedar group this year, assisting students, studying their diploma in sports development and St. Kilda Football Club.

Outside the Locker Room focuses on areas such as mental health, drugs, alcohol, gambling and domestic violence. Their program educates and brings awareness to these topics. Theirpassion is to not only educate but provide a safe, secure and private welfare platform for individuals to access 24/7 in a time of need.

Welcome, Jake.

JAKE:

Hi. How are you? Thanks for having me.

FELICITY:

You’re welcome. Great to speak with you.

JAKE:

Yes, of course.

FELICITY:

Your background includes being a Senior Lister Player with the Carlton Football Club for over four years; being a Motivational Speaker and Member with Whitelion for two years; working as Managing Director with LYPR for four years; and founding Outside The Locker Room as well as being VFL Player for Geelong Cats “Go Cats” for four years.

JAKE:

Yes. That’s right. You’ve done your research.

FELICITY:

That’s right. You’ve also worked with many companies such as Lifeline, Beyond Blue, AFLPA establishing a name for your passion, education and innovation in the mental health industry; and speaking at large companies such as Lulu Lemon, Functional 45, EML, School of Law Adelaide, AFL Victoria and over 80 Secondary Colleges. Tell us about your journey, Jake. What prompted you to start Outside The Locker Room?

JAKE:

Yes. Well, thanks Felicity for having me on this show. It’s a terrific opportunity to share my story, my journey, and hopefully give people a better insight as to, I guess, why Outside The Locker Room started, but more importantly give you my insight on mental health. I guess to answer your question, directly, what made me start Outside The Locker Room initially was, just for my own personal experience with mental health. As you mentioned in your intro that I spent four years at the Carlton Football Club, I was actually the fifth player on my family to play AFL football.

FELICITY:

Wow.

JAKE:

So growing up, yes, it was a big part of my life. I grew up in country Victoria. I always play footy, I always say that “If I was to give blood tomorrow, there will be little footy's flying around. It’s just a big part of my being DNA, growing up.

FELICITY:

Yes.

JAKE:

At the age of 17, I need a couple of weeks at the year ‘12, I was drafted for the Carlton football club and I got to live the dream. And all my dreams have come true and I lived that life. I’m very motivated, really excited and really driven to become a long term AFL player. At 2 years into my career, I started going through symptomatic issues with depression, and at that time, I had not heard of the word depression, which is something more around just trying to get out bed was really challenging, I was tired all the time. I didn’t want to be around my teammates anymore. I just want to get home and isolate myself. I found myself crying a lot of times as well, with that roller coaster of emotions. It was very frustrating, very confusing and I did what a lot of young adults is that we just tell ourselves a story that this is “No, this is ok, this is normal and this is probably just part of growing up and I've got to harden up and toughen up and get on with it.”

My biggest fear was that my teammates actually wouldn’t kind of understand and they might push me out of the group. And I guess I didn’t think, I thought I would think, I had what it took to become an AFL player. It allowed me to really hold on to it and keep it inside and not tell anyone about it. Unfortunately, I got to the end of my third year; I started playing AFL football, I played for Carlton, which is one of the bigger clubs getting around that is anywhere from 60 to 80,000 people a week that would come and watch you. Now as amazing as that sounds, it was very terrifying for me.

FELICITY:

Why?

JAKE:

Because it was the last place I wanted to be with the MCG being criticised under a microscope. So my anxiety was through the roof. It was easy for me just to kind of play football, go home, get away from everything. At the end of my third year as an AFL player, it all became too much, but I continue to hold on to it and would not talk to anyone. I had a few conversations with my Mum about it, but it was still just about me holding on to things. At the end of that third year, I had a meltdown. I just couldn't do it anymore. I actually quit the club and went back home to the farm. I sat around the table with my family and the first time I’d start talking about what I was going through because I just quit the one thing that I love my entire life. And my father, who is a very kind of old school type of figure; he grew up in the country himself, told me that feelings and emotions weren’t really normal around our kitchen table anyway. I was fearful that he would really kind of judge me and tell me to harden up and toughen up and stuff like that and…

FELICITY:

Get on with it?

JAKE:

Yes, get on with it stop and I continue just to close off. But Dad handled the conversation really differently, and it's a big shock to me too, he’s really compassionate and caring and placed his arm around me. And the moment he did that, the way he approached it, I just really galvanized me to really kind of open up, and I started talking about where I was at what I was going through. And then off the back of that, I went back to the football club because I had a year to go on my contract. I was diagnosed with mental illness thing; depression. As a young man, who I've been going through this at the age of 19, been diagnosed. It was a bit of a weight off my shoulder because I could understand it a little bit, I knew what all these feelings were about and had a title to it, but I still didn't understand it. I didn't ask any questions about it. All I wanted is pop a pill every day and get on and play football because that's all I knew, and that’s when I was happiest when I was out there playing footy.

I guess I abused the diagnosis of such a really serious illness, it was something that, it was easy for me to just to think that these pills would be my saviour. And when they weren’t doing that job, I got frustrated, and I got angry, and I thought it’s a bit a lot of crap. I just wanted to play footy, and I stopped taking medication, and just really used the wellness pathway moving forward.

When my career had come to an end at the end of my fourth year, it wasn’t on my terms. I was offered another contract by Carlton, but I decided I want to go away and start something new. And the Western Bulldogs gave me an opportunity to train down there and I had a terrific pre-season, they told me that they would draft me, and they actually didn’t eventually. So off the back of that, it really startled me to a four-year concoction of just depression and drugs and alcohol were my coping mechanism. So I went down the path of using alcohol, it was actually a way to cope, and I felt that I let my family down and friends down because of the whole football thing, and it was easy for me to run away from everyone and everything. And that led me down a path of obviously abuse with drugs and alcohol that led me to a moment about the four-year mark post my career where I found myself, I push family away, friends, I was lying my way through a lot of things. You did mention earlier that I was working, I’d started a digital PR company which, I was doing it just to get through, and give me some kind of routine or structure, but it wasn’t working. I had no money and I was in a really, really difficult place.

I had a partner at that time, and she was my last lifeline. She called up the state with everything, with the abuse with alcohol and drugs, and she walked out of my life. And that was really careless for me to really kind of look at my life then and there, and clearly, it was in a really bad way. So I went out that night, I partied for four days straight and just basically took full advantage of all the alcohol and all the drugs. And found myself on a Monday morning, where I attempted my life in the bathroom to take my life. And fortunately, I'm still here. Physically and emotionally, I committed to the act. And off the back of that, I had to get some serious help.

Unfortunately, I had to get to a place where I had to take that really negative action to realise that life is good and people can help. And there are people around here that can do that. I spent time in a program, in a rehab program in Dandenong, working with psychiatry and alcoholic support and so forth, and through that process, I was able to rebuild myself. And off the back of that is where I guess Outside The Locker Room was created. I needed to start formalising what I want to do for the rest of my life. I realised that perhaps my journey with something that young adults in community sport could probably look at and resonate with, because the more research I've done at that time, the more I’d realised that even though I played league sport, my same issues and challenges that I was going through were tenfold in community sport.

FELICITY:

Right.

JAKE:

And I’d seen around, what I had a luxury of, was the accessibility to resources, psychology, people like that at an elite level. The community level doesn’t have that, they didn’t have that. And the club that I grew up playing in, yes these are volunteers, Mum and Dads who work nine to five, who are worried about wilder boys on the weekend.

FELICITY:

That’s right.

JAKE:

Yes, there was nothing there for them to utilise if anything came up in the clock. And that’s where I guess the idea of Outside The Locker Room come off the back of that. It was a perfect timing really because I was in that pattern of creating what I want to do and the identification of seeing a need. And then the first year I've set the program up, we went from about 15 sporting club across country Victoria, mainly around Bendigo and the strip of the region and then off the back of that, it all sort of grown to a national program over four and a half years to what it is today. We’ve worked with about 180 sporting clubs and schools over that time, and it’s been a terrific journey. It’s been one that certainly has grant me every single day. And it’s kind of mind-blowing to see how quick it’s grown over that period of time. Yes, so I guess the work that we do today is a reflection as to what I went through, but today it’s more about the program of getting into schools and especially sporting clubs, and offering welfare, support and education to these community sporting clubs. In a wide-ranging different areas; mental health, drugs, alcohol, gambling and so forth. We’re becoming the go-to program for community sport that are having welfare issues in their club, looking for professional guidance and support for their place, their families, and their community.

FELICITY:

And having experienced it yourself Jake, you’ve found a vision really, and a mission that’s bigger than yourself. So that gets you focused and gives you something to contribute as well. It’s a major contribution, isn’t it?

JAKE:

Yes it is. And I've been there for such a long time. You see that four-year cycle, what I call it post my career, I didn’t have that purpose. I’ve lost; when I put that footy jumper off, a big part of Jake was just gone with it. And through that process, I used, obviously unresourceful ways to feel better, feel like I was coping through addiction. So to find a purpose, at the end of the day, really, is what it’s all about.

FELICITY:

Yes.

JAKE:

Being passionate about something that you can wake up every day, and want to get to work, and want to make better, want to do better. And come at the end of the day, coming home, realising that you’re actually making an impact and trying to help people through their own challenges. It’s a really rewarding process, and I've been fortunate enough to make a lot of money through football. You know, one point, I was well over six figures in terms of my salary, but I was miserable, and I wasn’t enjoying it. Where now, it’s not for profit, you basically run things and even though it’s frustrating at times, you’re certainly are more fulfilled with the work that you do.

FELICITY:

Yes, it’s a lot more rewarding.

JAKE:

Yes, definitely.

Felicity:

And having been fifth generation of football, you would have had a big identity around that obviously, because you’ve grown up with it I should say, and that was part of your DNA. Is there a common denominator in your experience with people who spiral down, Jake?

JAKE:

Look, I think it’s a combination of things. It’s certainly a very complex challenge or a complex idea around form of addiction because, for me, the most common denominator that I found with people that have fallen into pathways of abuse, probably come back to what we just spoke about; finding a real purpose, and finding and understanding of what it is that they love and what they want to do. I've been consistently, what I've found by friends, I've got plenty of friends who’ve been through the addiction stuff as well. They’re just trying to find a connect-ability to something that they’re really passionate about; and finding that early enough at the right time is really important as well. Also, the environments that we’re in; when I speak to people at the very beginning of that kind of lead way into perhaps abuse, the consistency with it is the people that we were hanging around, because ultimately people around us were using and doing and partying and all these type things as well.

FELICITY:

That’s right.

JAKE:

As we know, if you want to hang around…

FELICITY:

You have to fit right in.

JAKE:

That’s right. You’re now becoming all the five people you most hang around with. It’s something that, it’s proven through behaviour, and its easily the common denominator point of view would be the environments that you’re in and the importance of finding a purpose as well I feel is really important as well.

FELICITY:

Are there any tips that you can offer for our listeners, if not for themselves, but to help friends who may be in a compromised position?

JAKE:

Being compromised, in terms of helping someone I think may have mental health illness, or personally themselves?

FELICITY:

Both, really.

JAKE:

Both.

FELICITY:

Yes, most likely, to take ownership to yourself, you have to go through a process like you did, I think, for most people. You’re in denial.

JAKE:

You do, absolutely. On two occasions, I sat there with my best mate and he seen all the signs, and really knew I was struggling, and wanted me to get some help. And I lied and manipulated my way around the conversation. I couldn’t defend it, I got angry, I got abusive, and I just want to run away from it. And so, the reality is, in order to get some help is one thing, but in order to get sustainable help over a long period of time, the individual themselves needs to commit to the process. And that’s only when it comes to a realisation that whether it’s for them or for other people around them to be able to do that. But in terms of identifying whether they need some help and seek support, I think there’s a couple of things. One thing that I'm very passionate about, I love speaking in corporate and especially sporting clubs and so forth that really, at the end of the day, unfortunately we live in a country, out where we wait until we need help, or it’s a critical moment to cross, using my story as an example. Along the way, there’s many signs and symptoms and there along we can identify in ourselves that we need some help.

Here in Australia, the average time it takes for a male to get some help is five years. So when you think about that, it’s quite insane. Because, let’s say a young male identifies today that he’s struggling, and he should speak to someone and he should get some help, from today, five years on, he’ll actually go and do that.

If my story is anything to tell for, it’s basically that five years is a long time and a lot of things can happen in that short period of time, so the idea around is creating better laws or decisions now, rather than waiting to, you’re in that moment of support.

FELICITY:

It’s a bit too late.

JAKE:

Exactly. Exactly right. And looking at, the language for it is coping mechanisms and finding a way to deal with stress on an ongoing basis until you get to a point, rather than relying what until you get there. I encourage people that the reality is that life a times, you need to be resilient, because it will throw things at you. We all have different ways in coping with stress and difficult times, but it’s about having good ways to cope with these moments, and since, good things are like, for me example, I play one game of golf every week, and I enjoy a lot. But I get to play with one of my best mates every week, so by the time I tee of at first hole, we just talked about everything; my life, my work, my relationships; and by the time I finish the game of golf, I feel like deloaded everything. It’s the best free form of counselling that I can get.

FELICITY:

Yes. I might try that too, Jake.

JAKE:

Exactly right. And you’re not wrong. The two best places there that would identify especially men to have a conversation is one, driving in the car.

FELICITY:

Right.

JAKE:

Because when you’re driving in the car, you can, as men, we are sitting next to each other; eyes are facing forward, so there’s no intimidation. And the other one is riding a bike; the cycling fraternity is all about jumping on the bike with your mates and the network; riding down the road, you can hear him when driving in the car; you can hear him talking along the way. So it’s a terrific, informal way, there’s no intimidation to have a conversation with one of your mates and just ask him, “Hey, how are you going mate? How’s life and work? How’s your relationship? How’s work going?” And then by the time you finish the hundred-kilometre bike ride, I’m sure that they feel, it’s counselling. So it’s about breeding these great strategies in everyday life and not waiting to get to that point.

For the people listening, it is about taking accountability. It is about being responsible for your own mental health today, and putting some really good mechanisms in place. If it is riding a bike, or it is a game of golf, if it’s music, if it’s art, if it’s drawing, writing, reading, whatever it may be; putting these things into your life every single week is what is going to help cope. And the idea is about coping mechanisms or resilient strategies, whatever you want to call them, but really, it’s just doing stuff that you enjoy, doing stuff that really make you feel better. Because you get caught up in work, stress and expectation, and how it should be, and what we don’t have, it’s very easy to build a pattern of conditioning of negativity.

FELICITY:

Definitely.

JAKE:

And if you do that over a long period of time, it can become crippling. So, therefore, it can lead down to self-negative thoughts and criticisms, which is what we want to try to avoid. So the idea is stripping it right back and looking at your life and having a really good assessment as to, “Ok, what can I do for myself to make myself feel better?” Get moving, get to the gym, look at your diet, start eating better food, the right food at the right time. Find a couple things that you do every week, spend time with your partner, quality time with your partner. Don’t sit on the couch and watch ‘Married At First Sight.’ Look at ways that you can rebuild that connectivity with people in your life. So how about to answer that question, it is such a broad thing to answer, but really when you read back to basics, it’s about an individual becoming more responsible, identifying that, “Ok, stress and anxiety, it’s a part of life. We all go through it at different levels. How can I best mediate if it gets to a really difficult stage?” to try to avoid that as much as I possibly can.

FELICITY:

But it is you mentioned Jake; it’s quite non-confrontational, aren’t they? So they’re not really, like when you’re talking about playing golf, you’re not really, you’re concentrating on the ball, say, in hitting the ball. And with cycling, like you say, you’re looking forward, you’re concentrating on the road, so you’re not really having that, particularly for men, as you suggest, it’s not so confrontational. Whereas women are happy just to have a sit, and have a yak and chat, generally speaking.

JAKE:

That’s right. And going on to the next part of your question there is that how you support someone that you may think is going through a difficult time because in that in itself can be a frustrating experience. Because more often than not, you know some of your friends and family, that something is not right because you’ve known them for a long period of time. So you pick up on the signs and see things along the way and you try to do the right thing. You want to pull them aside and have a chat and you’ll say, “Is everything ok? I've noticed that you’re not quite yourself.” And here in Australia especially we give the same bullshit answers, “You know what, I'm fine. It’s ok. I don’t want to talk about it.” And that’s where it can become frustrating for a carer, so what we say is that, the best thing to do is just be there for them, don’t get angry, don’t criticise, don’t get frustrated, don’t double bait them as to ‘you’re becoming a burden,’ and that’s when they will want to open up.

So things like these mentioned now like game of golf and cycling, it’s a really an informal way of bringing up conversation. And that’s why people talk about the car, getting another male in the car. For sporting clubs, they always say, “Go pick your mate up and take the train. Pick ‘em up and take them to the next away game that you’re playing at.” And just have a chat in the car, with your eyes facing forward; it’s informal, we can just have a chat about life, where things are at. And it really is about building that environment around them. What I would not do is that, I wouldn’t ask him in front of other peers or in an environment where perhaps, say a café for example, where people are sitting next to them. It’s very loud and they feel like they need to talk loud, so it can become a bit of an intimidating environment. So the environment is really important when it comes to talking to someone, especially about things that they consider about themselves, because they don’t want anyone to know.

FELICITY:

No. And it’s personal.

JAKE:

So you want to be able to create an environment around them, and it might just be at ten percent that you’d need for the wall to drop. And then for them to be able to open up in a safe environment because more often than not, they trust you, they know you, so there is that trust there. But along the time, it is that environment; you build it for people to open up.

FELICITY:

Yes. You’re in four states Jake, but not New South Wales yet. So is that on the radar for you?

JAKE:

Definitely, it’s on the radar. Absolutely. We do have a couple of people in New South Wales that we’re going through the training at the moment for our community invested program. Our goal is to get more work up there in the next 6 months. We actually have, we are starting a few sporting clubs up there in the next couple of months as well, so technically, I guess without having run a program in there yet, towards this year we certainly will be in New South Wales. What we have found in New South Wales and parts of Brisbane, but we work a lot through Queensland, it is very NRL dominated. And even though our program is all sporting clubs, we work with cricket, basketball, netball, football, everything and anyone. But the perception is, is that we’re an AFL program and because of my background, so we’re still having that hurdle to break down. We’re adding some talking a partnership with another foundation called Chad Robinson Legacy Foundation, who unfortunately Chad took his life by suicide a few years ago, but he’s an NRL player, and his sister Monique Robinson has set up his foundation. We’re looking to use them to piggyback of their message. Us becoming their education partner to get into these clubs at a community level. So watch this phase.

FELICITY:

Yes, great. Looking forward to it. One of your resources is a free app for clubs in place as a part of your program, so what does Outside The Locker Room App offer?

JAKE:

Yes, it’s a terrific question. We’ve got asked that a lot with the program and a big part of it is offering a connectivity for young adults especially, to be able to feel comfortable, and to use technology in a really positive way. To encourage them to reach out if they do need some help, and the app is a great vehicle, a great resource for all the sporting clubs in their place and they can download it for free.

There’s few components to the app; the first one is that, via the app, anyone at any time can message our welfare team and reach out. We do make a disclaimer that we’re not a critical response program.

FELICITY:

No.

JAKE:

It can take a couple of days for us to get back to them. And we message that through the process of the app. But it’s a great platform for the young people just to life out: “This is what’s going on; can I get some answers around this? Or someone close to me, how do I handle it? What do I do?” So we have a lot of messages coming through our app that we service that conversation with individual.

The next part of it is, is that we collect data through them. So we’re always constantly measuring the impact that our program is having at our sporting club. So when someone first downloads the app, they go through a screening question there. So we identify them and their club, per demographic, geographically, what common challenges may be around mental health, abuse, gambling, domestic violence. We ask a lot of upfront questions, to create a snapshot as to what the challenges are at their sporting club. And then they’ll ask us to develop the right resources in behind that to support the club moving forward.

The other component is we get direct feedback through the app for our program. So we’re an evidenced-based program that allows us to take the feedback and actually report upon, to show against government  and people like that, that we’re looking for funding to continue doing that work, that we’re making an impact and we’re actually helping people. And a lot of times, I'm saying, it’s a lot; it’s a really important component of that program yet, and it’s something that we invested our beliefs, to both resource wise and financially to build that.

FELICITY:

Getting that feedback, no doubt, you would keep refining it so it’s just an ongoing work in progress really isn’t?

JAKE:

Absolutely. And we don’t get out there saying that we know everything and we’re perfect. We’re four and a half years on there, from how we delivered it day one, and how we deliver it this week, has changed so much. And that is being through the feedback, the consistent messages we get through the program, we constantly looking to evolve,we’re looking to always innovate our program. Every bit just about since we brought things in, we have moved things from it. We’re on a mission to create that perfect program, but I don’t think that people will ever be happy with it. I think it’s something that can always be better.

FELICITY:

Yes.

JAKE:

Maybe that’s the athletic mind of myself, wanting to kind of do more and be better.

FELICITY:

Yes, and improve.

JAKE:

But we don’t want to stand still.

FELICITY:

Oh that’ right. Yes. I understand that. In your resources section on your website, there is accessible info for each category of mental health, drugs and alcohol, suicide and problem gambling on identifying signs with behaviour, feelings, thoughts and physical. Who to contact if needed as you mentioned. There’s a great advice there, where to from here?

JAKE:

Yes, so in regards go to the Resources in there in terms of the program?

FELICITY:

That’s right. Yes, and also for you as Outside The Locker Room.

JAKE:

As a program? Yes. Ok, great. So we’re obviously looking at, so our commissioned for, one of the biggest things we evaluate throughout the year, at the end of the year, is our educational component of our program. And if we were gambling for example, four years ago, it was an issue, but it’s not as big as an issue as it is today. So even challenges such as gambling with all those large betting agencies, the money they put into and had put into it at the last couple of years, there’s more problems existing in our community today more than ever.

FELICITY:

Right.

JAKE:

So our constant development of our education content is ongoing. So we’re always reviewing, for example, the other day I had the Victorian Gambling Foundation in our board room, talking about, “What’s next? What’s coming up? What are you guys finding that’s most relevant? How can we bring that into our program?” Like we offer more service and support to our sporting clubs. So moving forward, it’s all about ensuring that we have a platform available for our sporting clubs to get the right access to the right people at the right time.

One thing our program does really, really well, is that, the connect-ability and the rapport, and the trust for the sporting clubs. We’ve always encouraged all those different areas such as mental health organisations, gambling organisations, domestic violence to piggyback off their program, to allow us to get their messages into our sporting clubs, to really breach that gap between individual who needs help, and what’s available for them into the community.

We’re looking at other areas like inclusion. So women’s sport now is becoming fantastically a huge component of community drive in participation, but what that’s bringing to local sporting club is an influx of participation in women’s sport and members. And that’s pretty strain on infrastructure, but also welfare. Because the more people you bring into a sporting club, the more challenges are going to exist at the sporting club.

FELICITY:

That’s right. Yes.

JAKE:

And therefore, we’re expecting our Mom and Dads to service this, which is putting more workload on them as well.

FELICITY:

That’s right.

JAKE:

We’re still in the process at the moment of developing an inclusion program, which covers a wide range of different areas, such as women/female in sport, LGBTIQ, multiculturalism. How do we actually inform our sporting clubs better to handle things that may come up along the way as well? We’re going to revisit, last year we did a mental health training program for all of our coaches and support staff; so we arrived in the place, we just get the coaches in the room. It’s a bit of a crash course in mental health first aid, but we use language in sport, such as plays and individualism and so forth. And we want to take that to another step eventually and look at covering all these different topics that I've just mentioned. So resource wise, it’s growing, it’s ongoing, but it’s about creating the right programs for the right reasons.

FELICITY:

Yes. We’re talking about the training your coaches that that leads into, you have a facilitator program as well for people that are aligned with your values of uniting community growth and compassion, with one of your partners being the Australian Counselling Association. What is involved to become a facilitator?

JAKE:

Yes, it’s definitely a big part of our program and a massive part of our funding all goes into our community ambassador program. As our program became more accessible to clubs, we have to look at how do we scale our program across the country. And for us to do that, I couldn’t be the head of the sporting club doing everything.

FELICITY:

Right.

JAKE:

So we had to invest time and development into what we call our community ambassador program. So it’s about putting opportunity out there to our communities because a lot of people out there who want to get involved in health profit and actually want to get back and support programs like ours; and it’s an opportunity for the local community leaders to contact us who wants to get involved. You can go on our website, there’s more information on there about that, and they just message us through the website and they go into a process of identifying the right or the wrong.

So we have a few pre-requisites but not mandatory. But we look for people that have had sporting club backgrounds; so whether that’s player, parent, community member, who really understand that culture and diversity within the sporting club, and also people who actually had a schooling background; so maybe teacher or counselling with facilitation in front of groups is quite easy compared to people who might find that more intimidating. So go speak to a member of our team who looks after our community ambassador program. And then we put them through training; so we put them through mental health first aid training, as well our facilitator training, where we give them all the tools that they need to go out to our sporting clubs and actually roll out our education program, which is terrific.

FELICITY:

Okay.

JAKE:

We pay them to do that as well. So it’s an investment from our behalf. But it’s accountability because there is payment involved, which works well for both parties; because volunteering is great, but volunteering is very frustrating at times too because people call in the last minute and so forth.

FELICITY:

Yes. Not so accountable.

JAKE:

Yes, that’s right, so the program we’re building is one that we want more participation from our ambassadors to really get involved in that program, help us raise money as well, by doing events and so forth. But more importantly, they get out. 98% of our ambassadors, they have a story to share, so whether that’s themselves with mental health, or drug and alcohol addiction or whatever it is, we encourage them to share their story throughout our program, but we train them on how to do that. And then in the room, you’ve mentioned the Australian Counselling Association, so in the room, every education system, we always have a counsellor or a psychologist, but very rarely, but definitely a counsellor in the room. So we rely on our partnerships with associations such as the ACA to help us get those people in the room because our ambassadors aren’t trained in counselling or welfare, but what they do is they humanise our program.

FELICITY:

Yes.

JAKE:

So these local people who come in and have the passion, whereas the wealth, we call them wealth aid champions, they come in and they consider the outside, and if anything comes up through a decision, they can stand up and help that conversation from a clinical element, which is obviously really, really important as well. So that program is growing, I think at the moment, we got about 35, trained members it is around Australia, and that’s grown double in the last, probably, 4 months.

FELICITY:

That’s fantastic and really exciting for your future.

Jake:

It is, and in order to make it sustainable, we need to put more time and development in that and finding the right people, too.

FELICITY:

That’s right.

JAKE:

Because there’s nothing wrong with being a volunteer.

FELICITY:

No.

JAKE:

But a lot of people come to us and want to get involved, perhaps, for their own reasons. And we’re not in the business of fulfilling that need for people; we’re in the business of commitment, wanting to give back ongoing and sustainably and bringing an accountability with our program that ensures that each delivery is being met consistently across the board. So it doesn’t matter ifBondi Beach Football Club have a session and then Mackay Magpies do a session out there; our program consistency is always, always the same.

FELICITY:

Yes. And you need that, so it’s a bit like McDonald’s pumping out their burgers and fries; you really want that consistency, don’t you?

JAKE:

That’s right, it sounds funny, but that’s exactly the methodology that we’re taking away in our program. Every session that we run, we have a screen in front of the room, and that’s our educational content. So we know that the mental health session being run at Bondi Beach, is the exact same that’s going to be run per football club.

FELICITY:

That’s right.

JAKE:

For example, our ambassadors are there to facilitate the conversation; the screen covers all the important messages and all the clinical element to the program.

FELICITY:

Yes.

JAKE:

And that is very similar to the McDonalds, ensuring the first cheeseburger is the same as the second.

FELICITY:

Is there an inspiring story that you can share with our listeners today, Jake?

JAKE:

Is there an inspiring story?

FELICITY:

Yes. I mean yours is an inspiring story but do you have an inspiring story, of say someone who’s participated in your program, or a player that you know?

JAKE:

Sorry, I wasn’t listening. I was going to bring that up because it’s always the most recent things that I think about. Last week we went up and did a session up at Barooga Football Club and the Cobram Football Club, which is on the border of New South Wales and Victoria. And off the back of that, a lady had messaged me; she organised the program up there, and I just want to read out the message. I'm reading from my phone at the moment if it’s ok with you to share with you an inspiring element to where our program, an impact that we are having. So I would just read it, this message was sent this Monday, so only a couple of days ago, that’s five minutes to eleven in the morning.

“Hi, Jake, sorry to bother you. Over the weekend, we have had one of our players hit rock bottom. I had a phone call from his parents today, very emotional saying that Thursday night has saved his life as he called the number you mentioned to prevent the inevitable on Saturday night. I'm so thankful that you come to our club with your story and your mental health awareness. I’m not sure if any of the guys from the community spoke to you in regards to the program within the club. But we definitely want to move forward and get you guys back up here as soon as possible because the number that you can call.” And so forth and so on.

So those type of things happen on a weekly basis. We get great messages from there. It’s inspiring and humbling to learn that we were able to leave a positive impact on even one individual. A lot of people go out there and say it, you know, you hear them all the time. If I could just leave one impact on one person is a really good thing. But to receive that message from the lady on Monday, it makes it all worth it.

FELICITY:

That’s a fantastic story.

JAKE:

Yes, this young man was in a really difficult way, and her mum, she said, you know if I continue on the message, it says in the bottom here, so, “The young kid and his parents are so thankful. So thank you so much. You basically saved this young kid’s life. It’s such a very scary thought.” So I guess that’s a little inspiring story for you. But there’s plenty to pick from.

FELICITY:

Definitely, yes. Makes me tingle actually. Like, it can be extremely challenging as a parent and also, you know, friends, it’s a domino effect, so it’s great they’ve got resource and used it, and that’s fantastic. So thank you for sharing that.

Our listeners can learn more about you and find you on LinkedIn on our website. We’ll have all those details in our show notes of your website Outside The Locker Room; you're on Insta and Facebook. So our website is bodytorque.cc and we’ll have all those details there for people to connect with you and learn more about Outside The Locker Room as well. And moving forward I'm really excited for the platform you’ve created and the opportunities that you’re creating for your players and the community to participate and also give back. It’s fantastic.

JAKE:

Yes, thank you. And it’s probably timely to mention that last night I had a presentation, so we just formalised a partnership with Cycling Victoria, and given as a cyclist as yourself…

FELICITY:

That’s right.

JAKE:

For all the work you do; I’m not one of those die hard cyclers, but I had rode my bike around Cambodia, which was a tremendous experience, but my bum was very sore at the end of it, which is quite funny. I deliver there our message to all the community clubs. Only about 50 cycling clubs in Victoria; and what any of your listeners who I’m assuming would be all bike enthusiasts, is that they’re involved in a cycling club to encourage them to reach out to our program, because we’re offering our program to all the cycling clubs in Victoria. And the program is free; they don’t need to pay for it. But what we do is that we come in and we want to get involved in events and do some fundraising to continue to support our program moving forward. This opportunity for cyclists and cycling clubs to get involved and do like a mental health ride on a weekend, and purchase some of our gear which all the cyclers can wear to really spread the message of that; and were actually putting a video series together, so keep your eye out in the next four to six weeks of a video series highlighting what we have mentioned before,and that is we’re calling it off the track, ‘Two Wheels to Listen.’

FELICITY:

Oh, great.

JAKE:

And what it is, is just a video kind of series of the important elements of the environment with bikes and how to have that conversation with your mate while you’re riding, down Beach Road for example, by getting off the bike and getting a coffee and then opening up and talking about things. So we see the cycling fraternities are a terrific vehicle to be able to support your mates.

FELICITY:

Fantastic. And also, we’ve got all of Australia, so we just don’t have Victoria; we’ve got the other states. So hopefully we can get the other states on board as well, and also triathletes, so triathlons and other sectors as well that have clubs, and they ride as well, so there’s quite a big opportunity in that area for you.

JAKE:

Yes. Triathletes is such an isolated sports.

FELICITY:

That’s right.

JAKE:

It’s one that they do most of the time by themselves, they have a training partner but it can be a very private. Yes it is, definitely. So there’s a lot of challenges that come with that.

FELICITY:

Certainly. Definitely.

JAKE:

So we’re open to anyone who needs any support around what we offer in sporting environment.

FELICITY:

Well we’ll spread the word. And I'd like to thank you for joining us today, Jake. It’s been a pleasure to learn more about you and also your story and Outside The Locker Room and I look forward to seeing those videos come into life and following you.

JAKE:

Terrific. Thank you. Thanks for the opportunity, Felicity. Appreciate it.

FELICITY:

Thanks for listening to the All Torque podcast. We'd love it if you would leave us a rating and review on iTunes. This helps us to deliver content you want to hear about. Please take a moment to share it with your friends and family on Instagram and Facebook. I'm Felicity Dales, see you next episode for another story of inspiration and motivation on the All Torque podcast.


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