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Sporting Chance has been running an education programme from our very beginnings over 20 years ago. We develop our content every single year to reflect changes in sport, in society and in the team who develop and deliver our sessions. This team is always evolving to ensure we consistently connect with athletes across the whole spectrum  of professional sport.


Lifestyle, Problematic Behaviours and Addiction

From our work supporting players in therapy and from what we often hear in discussions in our sessions, how athletes fill their time away from their sport has a huge impact on their mental health. This session encourages athletes to understand and assess their mental health in very basic terms and begin to make links between their behaviour and their thoughts and feelings. We look at how and why certain behaviours including gambling or social media use can become progressively problematic. Despite being widely known within professional sport for our expertise in treating addictive disorders, Sporting Chance do not run sessions exclusively on addiction. In reality, we speak to many athletes whose behaviour causes them or those around them to worry but who are not presenting with an addictive disorder. These sessions offer the opportunity for those that don’t have an issue to spot red flags on the road ahead and for those that do, to address it quickly and effectively before it causes more significant problems.

Substance Use

Sporting Chance have an established relationship with UKAD and many of our stakeholder agreements include provision to support players who have tested positive for prohibited substances. In many cases, prohibited substance use occurs when athletes are under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol use is a still a significant cause of harm in the majority of sports we work with. This session explores the different types of substances that athletes take in and out of competition. We'll talk about stimulants, depressants, empathogens and opioids, we'll talk about the specific risks associated with recreational drugs and drugs that can help with management of physical pain and we'll talk about the reasons that lead athletes to take often career defining decisions around drug use. As with all our sessions, our role as a treatment provider shapes our content. We will look at the emotional and mental health aspect of substance use, as a coping mechanism and how it links to risk-taking behaviour, self-sabotage and the athlete mindset.

Gambling (as well the related issues of in-game purchases and crypto speculation) is a common topic of concern within many of the sporting contexts in which we work. We treat problematic gambling both through 1-2-1 therapy and in our residential unit and unlike many other gambling awareness providers, we have both clinical expertise and genuine independence from the gambling industry. That said, our charity nor our education provision should be considered anti-gambling. Put simply, we want athletes to understand gambling as a mental health issue, look closely at how gambling can become a problematic behaviour and potentially an addictive disorder and how this can have an impact on both mental health and performance. We facilitate discussions as to why athletes are more vulnerable to experiencing problems if they don’t have all the information and knowledge of the right kind of support. Players will be able to identify increased risk linked to certain types of gambling or specific products and discuss examples of societal normalisation and gambling industry messaging. In a world in which the gambling industry has influence over the ‘responsibility’ narrative, we want athletes to understand why it is important that Sporting Chance is not connected with gambling firms, why our support services work and how to access them confidentially and safely.

Social Media

Professional athletes have a higher profile than the average member of the general public, they compete in an environment that delivers highs and lows in sometimes quick succession and which are often outside of their direct control and they are also often better placed than most to boost their profile and get commercial benefit from social media. Those who support athletes within clubs or training programmes know all too well that social media can become problematic for those in their charge, but also why it is enmeshed in many athlete's lives and identities. They see first-hand why athletes are less likely than most to opt out from engaging in social media, that there are tangible benefits both commercially and to an athlete’s sense of worth, but also that works the other way, and they can quickly develop a relationship with their phones that stops working for them and can be problematic. Our workshops do include some practical advice on structuring engagement but it is primarily focused on the idea of a 'relationship' and the emotional landscape that underpins it. We encourage athlete to openly discuss the pros and cons of social media, how various platforms affect their mental wellbeing and to think about behaviours they would like to change but need some help to bring about.

Supporting Others

Our staff workshops can take the form of a 60-minute information giving piece or a longer 1.5-hour workshop led by a therapist which involves group discussion and some basic exercises relating to managing conversations with an athlete who is experiencing difficulties and needing support with their mental health. Either session will give staff who are directly involved with the emotional and mental health of athletes clear guidance on the symptoms of poor mental health and associated thought processes and behaviours, how and why this will affect athletes in their jobs and in their homelife and how coaches, members of MDT’s or player care managers can be an effective conduit for athletes to getting appropriate support. As part of this, the session will address the barriers that currently stand in the way of support staff being able to prioritise athlete mental health or effectively support athletes when they know there to be an issue. Anonymised examples will be given from Sporting Chance’s triage intake and in the longer therapy led session, there will be scenario exercises to help staff work through hypothetical cases and apply it to their current environment.

Women in Sport

Our work in recent years with WSL Academy players on the Diploma in Sporting Excellence programme (through Loughborough College) has very much shaped our education output in this area, in addition to our role as a treatment service provider to WSL first teams and female squads on the FA national teams pathway. Our sessions use female athletes or therapists with experience of working with female players to discuss issues which we know from feedback are relevant to this environment including pressure, body image, self-esteem, gender and minority-based inequities, injury experiences, sexualisation of female athletes in the media, tension between sport and non-sport contexts, disordered eating, anxiety, and depression. As part of our session we discuss adaptation to adversity and stress coping ability, how to develop and enhance resilience and how to effectively build and maintain support networks. An increasing number of female players now qualify for Sporting Chance treatment services.

Athletic Identity

Since athletes have spent much of their lives training, earning recognition for athletic accomplishments, and being integrated in the sport environment they experience their athletic identity as most salient piece of who they are (Menke & Germany, 2019). Athletic identity is an area of specific interest for psychologists and researchers and certainly for the education team at Sporting Chance. Self-perception of physical, psychological and interpersonal characteristics, many of which are rooted in personal experiences, memories, and social influences – is an issue which understandably forms a part of our work with athletes in supporting them through periods of poor mental health and it also comes up time and time again in discussions in our sessions, whether we are talking about social media or with an mental health exclusively female group or an alumni football group who are all contending with the transition away from playing the game at a professional level. This session encourages athletes to explore the parameters of their athletic identity and the range of other identities outside of sport — we know this is important in empowering athletes to explore and access these other identities and the positive impact this can have on their mental health.

Emotional Regulation and Self Care

Our education provision is not simply about talking about symptoms and causes of poor mental health but also about solutions. This can include talking therapy and other psychological interventions – as a treatment provider it is understandable that we will discuss these in our sessions and help people to understand more about them and why they work. In reality, the interventions that Sporting Chance and similar organisations provide are only a small part of an individual’s management of their mental health. ‘Self-care’ is a increasingly noticeable term that incorporates a range of ideas and practical applications which we discuss in this session including self-awareness, mindful awareness, cognitive reappraisal, self-compassion and emotional support. Importantly this session focuses on the barriers that get in the way of individuals prioritising and implementing self-care. We look at how the human brain is designed to function and  the competing functions of different parts of the brain that mean we often overlook self-care in pursuit of other objectives. The session will help athletes and staff who recognise self-care to be important but who feel they ‘just aren’t doing it’ to put a more realistic, personalised, sustainable plan in place to improve and maintain their mental health on a daily basis.


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