'Kick Off'
 'Tackling Mental Health for Rugby League'
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Kick Off




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 Kick Off...Mental Health for Rugby League

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Kickoff - what we can do for you. 

The concept behind 'Kick Off' is to not simply provide a service or program that can be engaged by the league, or various clubs, when needed, but to develop the game's very own 'mental health service'; one that belongs to the sport. There is no 'conflict of interest' or shared focus with any other organisation, individual or purpose; it is soley designed around, developed for & directed at, all those involved in, or connected to, the game of Rugby League.

We envisage this 'revoluntionary' approach as being a 'model' for other sports and hope that other organisations or groups might see the benefit in establishing their own 'mental health service'. Generic, 'global' approaches to illness & mental health certainly have their uses and clear benefits, however those in areas such as Rugby League might find some of the content not as relevant to their own unique needs and, at times, perhaps a little confusing.

The reason for this 'target group specific' concept is to more effectively & efficiently deal with overall mental health for those involved and the provision of the appropriate relevant content. It provides for greater 'rapport building' and the development of mutual trust, along with the guarantee & confidence that comes with complete 'privacy' & 'confidentiality'.

Through the use of assessment, early identification & intervention; education specific to those involved and treatment options for those experiencing 'ill-health' we believe we can optimize the well being of all associated with the game. Pre-emptive and preventative measures are paramount with respect to ALL health matters (physical & mental) and must not only be initiated when 'illness' strikes. In this way we all contribute to overall 'risk minimization'; 'risk identification' & 'risk managment'.

The Problem..the Solution   Key Areas of Focus   Means of Contact  "Kick Off' - working together with Rugby League    Governance   Structure   Overview   Educational Structure   The Problem of Behaviour   Target Groups   Core Vaues   Aims & Goals   Privacy   Mission Statement   About us


Why go to the effort of introducing a program & service such as 'Kick Off'?

Many may ask; why bother? There are so many organisations & other services available & possibly currently being utilized. Information on the internet, books, brochures, health & mental health magazines & periodicals are similarly accessible to most. There are club doctors, personal GPs, mental health specialists and so on. Surely that's enough?

Who wouldn't agree with this approach or attitude?

The problem is that, despite the degree of accuracy in the comments, the reality of manifested mental ill-health, suicide, aberrant behaviour, drug & alcohol use & abuse, damaged careers & relationships etc. continues; without any signs of abating.

So, while it is true that there are ample resources 'out there', they have seemingly, thus far, proved less than successful.

'Kick Off' adopts a completely different approach to the implementation of its various functions. Offering a complete service & program with identifiable clinicians who have spent the time to get to know the players and establish a working rapport  & sense of mutual trust. This combined with the total confidentiality & privacy afforded and the essential 'baseline' assessments undertaken enable early identification of problems or potential problems and the opportunity to reduce or eliminate the outcomes of these through early & appropriate interventions.

Having a 'single', 'centralized' source for assistance in the many areas pertinent to mental health & 'life issues', is efficient and more easily accepted by individuals such as those involved in Rugby League. They need only make contact with one (1) organisation and generally one (1) person with whom they are familiar & to whom they may have already spoken.

This simple & direct means of addressing an individual's personal problems is aimed at streamlining the process, reducing time & effort, more swiftly addressing issues of concern & ultimately improving the probablility of the optimum positive outcome.

Because our focus is 'broad-based' & incorporates the multi-faceted aspects of one's life and the internal & external factors that impact upon it, we are able to 'complete the picture' by relating the interconnected, intertwined, overlapping components to a person's presentation. For example; underlying self esteem issues, depression, relationship problems, drug &/or alcohol abuse might be all co-existent and yet what we see is behaviour that is reported as being antisocial & aggressive, or sexually inappropriate etc. If you only see what has been demonstrated or witnessed, and send a 'task force' in to deal with this 'symptom', the underlying causative factors will remain; leaving the possibility of recurrence. 

The costs so far with respect to continued behavioural issues, drug & alcohol abuse & mental health anomolies would be considerable in the following areas:

  • Financially (for clubs, NRL, the game itself etc.) 
  • Time (administrative requirements for response) 
  • Emotionally (for players, teammates, coaches, CEOs, administrators, family et al.) 
  • Image of the game & those directly involved 
  • Programs, services, professionals engaged to address these matters as they arise 

Despite these costs, the problems remain. Is it working? Do we need to change our approach or methods of addressing the ever-expanding, media exposed matters of concern?


The problem...the solution

Many issues have been brought to light by the media in recent times. Most of the media outlets, be they print or televised forms and the journalists involved have proffered solutions or answers for these; albeit after attempting to highlight and expose them. Matters relating to drugs, alcohol, behaviour, poor attitudes toward women, culture, aggression are but some of those that have been identified by these media sources. The answers put forward include, primarily eduction, though penalties and sanctions, regular testing, bans, counselling and so on, have also been put forward.

The league has responded by attempting to address these issues by means of many of these suggestions put forward. Whether or not they have been effective, one wonders. The other point to be taken from all these 'well-intentioned' ideas is the meaning behind them. What do they mean when they say 'eduction'? Is it education regarding Drugs, Alcohol, Women's Rights, Anger & Aggression etc. through workshops & specific educational sessions, or do they mean the attainment of higher education, by virtue of academic acheivement?

It's easy to cite 'what's wrong'; to 'point the finger of blame' or responsiblity. It's also reasonably simple to offer solutions. What is not done, is state clearly and comprehensively 'how this is to be acheived' & 'what specifically' is meant by many of the phrases used; 'education' and 'culture' being prime examples. 

Many of the problems that have surfaced of late have always existed; to an extent. It is unfortunate in a variety of ways because it has established a type of 'sub-culture' within the game that should never have been as tolerated as it was. The problem now is that there is a limited tolerance by the general public, a heightened scrutiny by the media and matters pertaining to drugs, alcohol, aggression & misbehaviour is being recognised throughout society and in Government as that which must be addressed & dealt with. The Rugby League player & others involved in the game have been somewhat 'caught up' in all this.

Where once, much of the behaviours of the players were largely 'harmless fun', they now are matters of serious debate.

At 'Kick Off', we do not suggest for one moment that those involved in the game are suffering mental illness or that many of the misadventures of some are the outworking of a mental illness. We do, however, believe that the area of 'Mental Health' encompasses much more than simply illness; it is not restricted to an isolated goup of individuals or the minority of the population. 'Mental Health' applies to all. Every behaviour, whether positive or negative, good or bad, healthy or unhealthy is as a result of that which origniates in the mind.

This is the education and support we, as an organisation, aim to address. We wish to encourage people to assess themselves, think, examine their inner thoughts, desires, feelings & emotions and those aspects of their minds that 'drive them' toward any and all behaviour exhibited. When an individual can begin to understand themselves, they are in a better postion to understand others. They are similarly in a better postion to undertand society and how they 'fit in' to that society.

We do not attempt to 'change' people into something they are not. We cannot 'make someone' behave in any way or force them into changing; this must come from within the individual. It cannot be imposed by anyone or any organisation. You may be able to legislate many aspects of their lives, but no-one can legislate the mind. That's where the problem lies. What 'Kick Off' attempt to do is to 'help the individual' (whoever they may be)...to 'help themselves'; by means of encouraging the development of 'insight', heightened awareness of behaviour & issues that impact upon the mind & behaviour, self-examination & re-evaluation. Education is a must, but it has to be relevant & useful; aimed at improving someone's total well being, not merely targeted at an issue brought to public attention, by virtue of 'misbehaviour' & via the media. 'Token', 'dutiful' attention will be provided, though most likely no real 'internal' change.


Key Areas of Focus



Drug & Alcohol Abuse

For very obvious reasons, this is a priority area, though to simply deliver information, provide education & attempt to apply ‘scare tactics’ will not work. Drug & Alcohol use & abuse is often the outworking of inner problems, inadequacies or personality issues. The ‘root causes’ for the abuse needs to be explored if success is to be achieved with respect to this problem. The old adage of ‘treating the symptom, not the cause’ applies very clearly in this case in relation to the approaches utilized thus far. ‘Kick Off’ maintains a strong educational base, though attempts to relate abuse to other aspects of an individual’s total being; their personality, their coping skills, their relationships, self esteem etc. In this way, the individual player has a better opportunity of seeing how things ‘link together’ and the alternative options that might help them avoid such use and abuse.  


Self Esteem

As strange as it may seem, this is a common issue confronted by many of our players. One would assume that all the associated benefits of being a   Rugby League player would ensure a ‘sound’  self esteem. This is actually untrue. Self Esteem exists or is developed largely through childhood & adolescent experiences. It is mutually exclusive from the successes of the athlete, meaning that someone’s success, profile etc. does not indicate any particular level of ‘self esteem’. It is particularly relevant to the League player as they often experience the ‘comfort’ & ‘confidence’ similar to healthy self esteem whilst ‘on the paddock’ or ‘with their mates’ or in the social world of the Rugby League fraternity. Take them outside of these areas and suddenly you see the frailties & vulnerabilities of any human being. This anomaly can result in many of the socially unacceptable behaviours we have witnessed or read about. 


If there is one area of the player’s life that will bring them to a point of seeking help, it is that which pertains to ‘relationships’, particularly as it applies to their partner or spouse. Similar to the issue of Drugs & Alcohol, the area of relationships is often where the manifestation of inner problems, inadequacies etc. is realized. Unfortunately Drugs & Alcohol are often utilized as a ‘self medicating’, inappropriate coping mechanism that masks or temporarily eases the pain of inner problems. This often leads to a reluctance to or avoidance of seeking any help. Relationships are different. They are such an integral part of an individual’s life and more importantly their private life. It is that situation where all the pretenses and image are irrelevant and insignificant. It is where the footballer becomes the person, the man, the partner/husband/father. When this is in trouble, everything can suffer. Performance on the field can be contingent upon the status of a player’s relationship and, as such, should be focused upon. Relationships can also apply to any interpersonal relationship; ie. with teammates, employers, club officials, coaching & conditioning staff, media, fans, general public etc. The individual’s capacity to function successfully and appropriately within society is largely based upon their capacity to form, develop & maintain sound relationships and the associated skills. 

Problem Solving 

It seems so simple, yet we all falter at times in our ability to problem solve. Peripheral issues can impinge upon the individual’s capacity to adequately recognize, address & find solutions to life’s problems. Similarly, there are personality characteristics that also influence one’s problem solving abilities. Everyone requires the skill base to be able to negotiate life’s many obstacles. Without the necessary problem solving skills, a person will generally lurch from problem to problem without ever truly finding solutions. It makes life in the present & in the future rather bleak and daunting.

Planning for the Future

The life of the Rugby League player is more often than not a great time. The ‘livefor the moment’ attitude can often accompany this experience and unfortunately lead to poor or inadequate preparation for the future. One needs to pay attention to future needs such as employment/vocation, relationship, financial security, personal & social needs. Every player, one day, will retire from the game. This may be because of age or it may be enforced through injury, but it is one of the certainties of their life; like ‘death & taxes’ it cannot be avoided. The percentage of players that are independently wealthy is virtually nil, the number of players moving successfully to full time employment in league related occupations is relatively low in comparison to the number of those playing and ultimately retiring. It is essential that adequate preparation & consideration for the inevitable be addressed with serious attention.  

Other Areas

To truly encapsulate all that is necessary for higher social functioning and the fulfillment of an individual’s capacity, there are other areas that require attention. Examples of these are:- 


·          Needs (Psychological, Physical, Emotional & Social) 

·          Being a ‘true mate’ for those within the club & the team 

·          An understanding of the prevalence of ‘Mental Illness’ 

·          The capacity & need for ‘Self Assessment’ 

·          An understanding of ‘common’ illnesses & disorders such as ‘Depression’,

           ‘Bipolar’‘Anxiety Disorders’, ‘Personality Disorders’, ‘Drug Induced Psychosis’. 

·          Abuse & the consequences of abuse 

·          Suicide 

·          Grief & Loss 



‘Kick Off’ cover all these areas, to differing degrees of depth, though recognizing the significance to the individual in respect to their total well being. 




 Means of Contact


Below are some of the various means of contact and by whom these might be made. Please refer to the attached diagram as to the processes & variables associated with these types of contact.



1.                  The player or individual concerned 

This may occur via the Web-Site, Help Line or from ‘Personal Contact’


2.                  Club or Club representative/official 

Questions such as; “is the individual concerned aware of the contact”; “are they wishing to speak or see someone”; “do they want to see someone”; “is the issue of sufficient concern to take the step of contacting ‘kick off’ directly. Another point is that consent of the individual concerned may be required. Contact can be made via the web, help line or direct contact.


3.                  Close family member (spouse, partner, mother, father) 

Via website or ‘help-line’. Is the person aware of this contact? Is this contact for information or assistance/help? Is it for advice regarding options?


4.                  Other relative (eg. brother, sister, aunt, uncle etc.) 

This tends to be more of an ‘information only’ contact; some advice or assistance may be given depending upon the circumstances of each individual issue. This would be by way of the web site or help line.


5.                  Friend or Teammate 

Again, the question needs to be asked; “is the individual concerned aware of this contact?”; “are they prepared for, or wish for help?” Contact could be made through the web site or by the ‘help line’; if it is a team mate, it may be through personal or direct or indirect (via club) means.


6.                  G.P., Psychiatrist or Psychologist 

Through the web site, help line, direct & personal; via the clubs or players etc. The contact is primarily for informational purposes, though referral may involve the sharing of details pertinent to the individual concerned; in which case, the necessary consent will be required.


7.                  Related or affiliated organisation 

Largely for informational purposes, though shared details may possibly be required. In such cases consent is essential. This means of contact could be via the web, help/information line, e-mail, direct &/or personal, via the clubs, other players, friends or family..& so on.




'Kick Off' - "working together with the player, the clubs, the league"

‘Kick Off’ ensures that we operate our service & program in accordance with, and supportive of, the ‘National Code of Conduct’ & the various club’s ‘Codes of Conduct’.


We completely endorse these standards and all our interventions, counselling, treatment and informational/educational material is not contrary to these requirements of the various governing bodies.


It is essential that continuity and consistency between a service or program provided and the game’s expectations & requirements is unified in its methodology & ideology. It is imperative that nothing impinge upon the fulfillment of these standards.


By working within the overarching guidelines of the clubs and governing organisations and in conjunction with the practical expectations of the coach, the CEO, the administrators et al, there is a greater likelihood of improvement in the individual’s life as it relates to the game.


The direct link between the individual’s performance and mental health/behavioural issues is one of our strong messages and one on which we consistently focus.


Similarly, there are societal expectations regarding behaviour and this too is a theme that is entrenched in the goals, aims & functions of our organisation.


Any destabilization through poor communication, education and oppositional interactions and information is strongly avoided. The outcome of this destabilization is disunity and disruption to the league, administrators, the club & the life of the individual concerned.


By working together, with mutual objectives, we believe ‘Kick Off’ can provide assistance in areas that have recently been portrayed and established as divisive and negative.  




Simply put, this is how ‘Kick Off’, as an organisation, is run & overseen, who governs it & the mechanisms by which it is structured & governed. It places responsibility & accountability at the feet of those who govern and also provides the authority by which they govern. 


The following diagram & flow chart details the structure & governance of the ‘KickOff’ program & service. 






The Board oversees the entire organization. They ensure transparency & openness with respect to financial management, program/service development & direction, issues pertaining to employees, promotion & sponsors and sensitive issues relevant to clubs & organizations who have engaged the ‘Kick Off’ program. 



'Kick Off'- Structure



The Board comprises seven (7) people and is made up of the following: 


  • Chairperson  
  • Psychiatrist  
  • Manager  
  • Coordinator  
  • Psychologist  
  • Rugby League representative  
  • Educational representative  
  • Liaison Officer       



Clinical Committee


The Clinical Committee oversees the ‘clinical’  aspect of the program/service. It comprises the following:- 


  • Psychiatrist  
  • Psychologist  
  • Social Worker  
  • Program Manager  
  • Program Coordinator  
  • Senior Clinician  




The manager’s role with the organization pertains to the following areas of responsibility:- 


  • Board Member  
  • Member of Clinical Committee  
  • Overseeing of finances  
  • Employment & recruitment  
  • Resource procurement & allocation 





Coordinating the ‘Kick Off’ Program & Service is the responsibility of the Coordinator. It covers such areas as:- 


  • Coordination of program delivery  
  • Dissemination of educational/informational material  
  • Overseeing the production of program material  
  • Allocation of human resources for the implementation of service delivery  
  • Liaising with the various entities who have engage the ‘Kick Off’ organization  
  • Proofing of content of program material, literature etc.  
  • Board Member  
  • Member of Clinical Committee  
  • Member of Multidisciplinary Team   





The clinician is the ‘front line’ member of the ‘Kick Off’ team. Their responsibilities & activities are:- 


  • Initial engagement with the individual client  
  • Delivery of programs  
  • Counselling (both short & long term)  
  • Assessment & information gathering  
  • ‘Senior Clinician’ is also part of the Clinical Committee & Multidisciplinary Team  







Multidisciplinary Team


Many of the decisions regarding the clinical approach to an individual’s problem and the formulation of strategies & interventions, referrals etc. are the responsibility of this team. It comprises the following:- 


·          Psychologist 

·          Social Worker 

·          Mental Health Practitioner/Clinician 

·          Senior Clinician 

·          Program Coordinator 


This will most often be conducted in consultation with a GP &/or Psychiatrist, though they are not necessarily present during such meetings. 




Phone Counsellor


The phone counsellor can often be a clinician or any member of the team mentioned thus far. The phone counsellor can also be an individual who has received the appropriate training to enable accurate and professional interaction with the client. There are strict guidelines applicable to the phone counsellor’s role and the requirement to refer to a more senior team member or representative should that be necessary. A senior clinician is always ‘on call’ for such occurrences.





©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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