Rugby League Cares’ health programme Offload – which Salford Red Devils are a founding member of – has been praised for its engagement with men and mental wellbeing, in a major academic study.
The research, carried out by Edge Hill University, can be found here and outlines the programme’s success in changing and saving lives, providing the men involved with a welcoming space to talk about their mental health.
Salford Red Devils Foundation are partnered with Rugby League Cares and State of Mind, who also support Offload, to give local men the opportunity to go behind the scenes of rugby league, learn the mental fitness techniques of professional players and be supported to develop their own winning mindset.
Offload is a 10-fixture season at the A J Bell stadium where men join forces with rugby league players, past and present, to understand the challenges of the game. The ability to deal with injury, moving to a new club, tactical changes, retirement and new careers beyond the game are discussed along with a player’s ability to juggle the everyday demands of life whilst performing at the top level.
Speaking on the Offload programme, Salford Red Devils foundation director Neil Blackburn said: This programme has been extremely successful and really made a substantial difference to our local community. We have engaged with hundreds of men who would not have engaged with traditional medicalised institutions. It has been a pleasure working with RLCares and other partners on this highly rewarding programme.
Our physical and mental health is so important, especially in such uncertain times. Programmes such as Offload are an essential part of the local provision an enhance the existing services.”
— SRD Foundation (@SRDFoundation) February 25, 2021
Sport and physical activity professor at Edge Hill University, Andy Smith, one of the three researchers into the Offload programme, said: “There has been a rapid growth in community sport and mental health programmes for men, but the key design characteristics of these programmes, and the roles played by delivery staff in their conception and development, have not yet been systematically or widely studied. Our research on the Offload programme begins to rectify this.
“Among other things, our analysis showed that men clearly preferred a non-clinical approach to discussing their mental health, often in less stigmatising environments like professional sports stadia, and using sporting analogies to support self-care.
“Having the sessions led by former professional sports people working alongside mental health and community sport experts made it a safe space and allowed participants to express themselves fully. This, in turn, provided great outcomes for the men involved.”
One participant in the programme said: “Some of them [the presenters] are people I’ve admired because I am a rugby league fan. When I’ve seen what they’ve been through, it made it easier for me to offload my problems in front of a few people, which I wouldn’t have done before.”
Emma Goldsmith, head of community at Rugby League Cares, said: “The power sport has to transform the lives of participants is well documented but the success we have seen in making transformational change to the quality of life of the men who have engaged in Offload is remarkable.
“Offload is enabling us to connect with an audience that health service providers have traditionally found difficult to reach: the feedback we receive from participants is consistently positive and uplifting, and it’s a privilege for everyone at RL Cares to know we’re making such a difference.”
To find out more on how to get involved in Salford’s Offload programmes, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.