I Got Mind tour stops in Red Deer for focus on mental health in sports

By Sheldon Spackman
January 9, 2019 - 2:19pm Updated: January 10, 2019 - 8:56am

NHL veteran and current Hockey Night in Canada analyst Kelly Hrudey will be among those hosting an information session in Red Deer Thursday night focusing on mental health in sports.

The 'I Got Mind' tour stops at Westerner Park January 10 and takes place in the Marquis room at the Harvest Centre starting at 7:00 p.m.

The tour was created by Calgary native and former NHL player Bob Wilkie who during the session will share his experiences in overcoming his own personal challenges,

Wilkie says he created I Got Mind to help other young athletes fulfill their goals and navigate the challenges they will have to face, in addition to creating awareness and education for the players, coaches and parents.

“As a retired athlete, there was a lot of unanswered questions I had about what happened and why I ended up like I did,” he explains. “As I started to find answers, I realized that the kids of today are going through the exact same thing I was, so I wanted to become educated and be able to teach the side of the game that can be the most challenging.”

He points-out many issues in sport, including stress, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and self-doubt, not only for the athletes but for parents and coaches, affecting entire organizations in one way or another.

“The competition in sports is what we crave for our kids when we put them in it,you know, teach them how to compete,” states Wilkie. “But competition sometimes leads to bullying, not being able to perform at the highest levels, so it can create a lot of self-doubt. As they start to progress and get into their teen years, the pressure from the parents can become excessive because the performance isn’t consistent.”

According to Wilkie, injuries, being cut, not meeting expectations and inconsistent performance are some of the major causes of mental illness in athletes, adding parents and coaches contribute to these issues as well without even realizing it.

Following the Humboldt Broncos tragic bus crash in April of last year, Wilkie went to Humboldt to help and ran into a parent who lost a child that he grew up playing hockey with.

Being a survivor of the 1986 Swift Current Broncos bus crash, Wilkie informed the parent what he was doing now and it led to the creation of the I Got Mind tour.

“He said it’s just so needed,” recalls Wilkie. “Then he proceeded to tell me one of the last conversations he had with his son. That’s when I said, ‘You know what, we’ve got to get out there and try and make more people aware of what’s going on,' and if we can learn from simple things, it doesn’t need to be as taxing as it can be.”   

The goal says Wilkie, is to share valuable experiences and science behind these issues, while raising awareness for athletes, parents, coaches and organizations to the long term effects of mental illness.

How it starts, signs to watch for, better ways of communication and how the long term effects can become a lifetime illness will also be explained.

Joining Kelly Hrudey and Bob Wilkie Thursday evening are Corey Hirsch, mental health clinician and specialist Shawn O’Grady, Kevin Smyth and local student-athlete Matthew Hope, an RDC cross country runner from Red Deer.

“I’m going to be telling my story of how I became ill, how it caused issues with our family unit and the things that started to happen to me,” he explains. “While I’m doing that, we have mental health clinician Shawn O’Grady who specializes in the brain science of what was happening to my brain as I went through the bullying and unmet expectations and the tragedy. It just really paints a clear picture of what these young athletes are going through and then sharing some experiences of what we can do to combat that.”

Wilkie says it’s important for people to realize that young athletes spending several hours a week on their physical development should also be spending time on their mental health as well.

“There’s a lot of tips and tricks that I learned over the course of 20 years of healing that can really help a lot of people now,” he exclaims. “The fortunate part about what I do is I get to go and have conversations with these kids and because I’m talking about this that they’ve never talked about, they can be very open. So you learn about mom’s having a bad day or dad’s having a bad day and comes to the game and sees that they didn’t play well and on the ride home it’s all about, you’re not working hard, you’re not doing this and we’re paying for this.”

Wilkie says conversations like those can pass on a significant amount of guilt and shame for young athletes.

“It’s cool to sit and hear from their perspective what the challenges are,” adds Wilkie. “It’s eye opening I’m telling you. We thought it would be a powerful presentation to bring to the people of Red Deer to make them think differently.”

To purchase tickets, visit ticketsalberta.com.

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