WE will see the towering, imposing physique of Tom Boyd step on to our turf on Sunday.
We will likely be lauding his big, strong grabs and power in the contest for Western Bulldogs at Mars Stadium.
Boyd embodies the heroic notion we have about our footballers in action.
A true hero also has character and courage in the face of adversity. Boyd proved this in speaking up this week about his personal struggles with depression and anxiety off the field that acutely took hold in the wake of the Bulldogs’ 2016 premiership. But Boyd admits these issues had been brewing for some time.
He spoke up for headspace’s headcoach campaign, the national youth mental health body’s new push for young men to be proactive about improving their head space and developing tools to draw on when times do get tough.
Boyd is more than a hero, he is a role model. And he is only 22 years old.
This campaign aims to break the gender stereotype males must be stoic and often we forget this when it comes to our sporting heroes.
It is also a reminder how tough elite sport can be on and off the field.
Injuries, performance pressures and the looming threat of being cut, often with little notice, at the season’s end. Even the most decorated athletes can grapple with when to give up the game.
And there is the increasing hype of everyone critiquing your every move, most without any real notion of exactly what you are out there to achieve.
What sport and elite athletes can do so well is to use their platform to make a positive difference in society. While their worlds might seem incredibly different, we can often still relate to their raw, honest feelings.
Nineteen-year-old Daniel Arzani quickly captured headlines for his promotion into the Socceroos’ World Cup squad. Arzani was 14 when he moved to the Australian Institute of Sport. He missed his tight-knit family, he missed his mum’s cooking but he says the benefits of such support really showed when things were not going so right for him.
Most of the athletes in the campaign, including Arzani and Boyd, spoke of the importance to getting outside their sporting bubble, making time to enjoy other activities and mix with different people for different perspectives. Things we can all likely strive to do better.
It is not just males. Tenacious Collingwood defender Sharni Layton, a former Australian Diamonds captain, encouraged people to share more about mental health in her retirement from all levels of netball last week. Layton took a significant break from the top level last year in a bid to try and recover from mental exhaustion. She has spoken of how hard it could be to voice her feelings.
Sport is just as much about mental toughness as it is physical prowess. This is also a reminder how training for mental health and seeking help for mental niggles and injuries is just as important.
If such high-profile sporting figures can open up about such an intensely personal topic to make a difference, that is true courage.
- headspace.org.au/headcoach, Lifeline 131114.