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Being a 'Mate'.



“Mates don’t let mates drink & drive”. A great advertising campaign, though there  is one question that needs to be asked. What is a mate? We use the term loosely; from calling someone ‘mate’ when you can’t remember their name, or have no idea who they are. In everyday conversation such as, “how ya goin’ mate?” or “what do ya know mate?” We have ‘team mates’, ‘good mates’, ‘work mates’, ‘school mates’ etc. etc… 


Does ‘mate’ mean ‘friend’? If that is the case, then ‘mates don’t let mates drink & drive’ makes sense; then, ‘being a mate’ will make sense. Friends care about the well being of their mates. They make sure that they’re traveling OK. 


The concept of ‘mate-ship’ can be positive, but it can also be negative, particularly in the social world of  Rugby League. 


The opportunity to get ‘out & about’ with your ‘mates’ after a game, a function, training etc. is always there and always going to be taken. There will also be those times in the season, particularly early on, when younger players and newly acquired players are able to become more familiar with their new club and team mates. What better opportunity. It is at these times that impressionable young players or players wishing to quickly ‘fit in’ to their new environment are at their most vulnerable. 


It is quite clear that these ‘mates’ are probably not your closest friends, yet. There has most likely been insufficient time to actually form a friendship. That’s normal. They are, however, your team mates and, as such, care needs to be taken to ensure they receive a positive message regarding the club. Younger players particularly will tend to ‘role model’ themselves on more senior, established players. 


Similarly, it is a perfect chance to get to know them better. In a more relaxed environment, you tend to interact in a more casual and open manner, without the constraints of club officials. This is where you can get an idea how someone is coping with their change of club, where you find out if they’ve got a partner, wife, girlfriend etc. and generally how they’re going. You sometimes find out early that there are a few problems, or they exhibit concerning behaviour that would suggest they have a problem in a certain area. Don’t let them down by ignoring these instinctive notions as if it wasn’t any of your business or by laughing it off as a joke or a particular idiosyncrasy, personality type or that they a somehow a bit of a clown, fool or joker.


It is not your place to interfere or pry into their life, though it is your responsibility to make a mental note of your concerns for later reference. You may also be sufficiently concerned that you feel the need to speak with the coach, CEO, club doctor or other club representative you can trust. This is being a ‘mate’. 


There is a big difference in being a ‘mate’ and being a ‘mentor’. Being a mentor takes more responsibility and accountability and those who wish to act in this role are fully aware of the commitment they are making. The person they are mentoring, likewise, is fully aware of the mentor’s role, and accepting of that. The mentor will also require a degree of training, even if it is reasonably basic, as to the correct role of a mentor. 


Everyone, particularly senior players, should behave as a ‘mate’. Every life is valuable and the quality of someone’s life is important. No-one should spend the majority of their waking hours struggling to cope with life’s ‘bad bounces’, especially when team mates are aware, nor should they be led into a lifestyle of ‘antisocial behaviour’, even if you may find their antics when ‘pissed’, ‘wasted’, ‘stoned’ or ‘off their face’ amusing. 


Spend time with those guys you train and play with. You rely on them to work as part of a team in the game; you rely on them to do their bit in the overall game plan; why not take the same approach to them ‘off field’. You may not ‘like them’, feel they are too much trouble, they’re a nuisance, a joke, a ‘mug lair’, a fool etc…, and you don’t have to invite them into your life or personal space.  They are, however, a human being, a team mate, a member of your club, and as such, they require acknowledgement of their existence and their relevance. 


Every individual’s life is important. Everyone has feelings, history, family, special circumstances & experiences. Why someone behaves in a way that you don’t approve does not mean they are irrelevant or not worthy of attention. You would be surprised and ‘guilty’ if you knew some of the tragic circumstances that have led to the behaviours & personalities you may find offensive or intolerable. Accept people as they are; accept their unique, some times annoying behaviours, without condemning or judging them. In this way you will contribute to the betterment of, not only the individual, but the league & society at large. This principle applies to all people, irrespective of our own personal opinions & prejudices. 


Never presume; never assume that someone who presents in any particular way is actually 'really like that'. You may be incredibly surprised.....both ways; positive or negative; good or bad! Try to see the ultimate potential in a player or other individual and treat them as if they were the fulfillment of that potential. This approach is utilised throughout society by those who have the capacity to see somewhat beyond the 'here & now'.


The concept behind it is also very applicable to administrative entities within the various clubs – CEOs, Board Members, Managers etc. Many coaches apply this principle to players without even recognizing it. They can see the potential; they can see where the player should be and treat him accordingly, with the belief they will achieve this. They provide encouragement and at the same time give them responsibilities they know they can handle and challenges they know they can meet. 


If they only see them for what they are at the moment and give them no challenge or tasks beyond their capacity now, the player will not develop any further and, in fact, will most probably decline in performance. 


Spotters and astute coaches have the capacity to see not only potential but almost a visualization of the fulfillment of a player’s innate abilities. If you wait for a player to develop & mature in relation to skills and talents, then you’ll most likely never have that player with your club. He will have been ‘snapped up’ by another. 


If this is applicable in a sporting sense ‘on the field’, then imagine applying to life ‘off the field’. All those involved in the game should attempt to adhere to this basic principle, particularly ‘mates’. Don’t just see the outward, superficial characteristics & behaviour of someone. It can often be very misleading and contrary to the qualities that lie beneath. 






©2008 Waldel Pty Ltd

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Michael J. Salamon, Ph.D., FICPP
Senior Psychologist/Director
ADC Psychological Services, PLLC
1728 Broadway, Suite 1
Hewlett, NY 11557







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