WA cricket legend and coach Justin Langer has revealed the toll sport at an elite level takes on players and staff at the WA Cricket Association.
The WACA has become the first State cricket association in the country to develop a mental health and resilience program for all players and staff.
The program was developed after a WACA staff member took their own life 18 months ago, prompting management to in-vest in mental health training.
Langer, head coach at the WACA for 31/2 years, said he regularly counselled young players anxious or stressed by the pressures of professional sport.
“I’m amazed at how many young males 19 to 30 years old I’ve seen in my office who are crying, who open up to me about things in their life, whether it’s on the sporting field or off the sporting field,” he said.
Langer said many people thought State cricketers were “living the dream” by earning big money to play their sport.
“But these kids are on a journey of life,” he said. “You can’t give a 19-year-old the experience of a 40-year-old, so they’re actually living through it with great expectations (of them).”
“They are trying so hard and the harder you try, the worse things get because you’re putting so much pressure on yourself,” he said.
“They’re going to burst. I see that regularly, if not day to day.”
WACA chief executive Christina Matthews said the staff member’s suicide hit everyone at the cricket ground hard.
“It made us realise we were ill-prepared to handle something like that,” she said. “Further to that, the guilt everyone feels after about how did we not notice something was wrong.”
The WACA brought in a consultant to help develop mental health and resilience workshops for managers and staff, did surveys and had wellbeing and counselling programs.
“There’s an expectation when you work in sport that you just get through stuff,” Ms Matthews said.
“It’s not an environment where it’s easy to talk about if you’re struggling.”
Ms Matthews is on the 700km Hawaiian Ride for Youth from Albany to Perth in the Atlas Iron team next month. The ride is in aid of Youth Focus, which works to prevent youth suicide.
This article first appeared on ‘The West Australian’ on 29 March 2016.