Sport teams can do more to combat family violence

VFL player Kyle Dove.
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AFL teams are providing support to their players to help combat family violence and other sports should follow suit, writes Matthew Hickey.

Awareness that some professional male athletes require support to deal with mental health issues is growing, says promising VFL player Kyle Dove.

“There are now options for people who need assistance.”

Dove, in his second year at Port Melbourne, said expectations weighed heaviest on professional athletes. “The pressure to perform is very high.”

Programs such as ex-AFL player Lance Picioane’s Love Me Love You now have a place in sporting clubs, and the use of sport psychologists, counsellors and player welfare specialists has also greatly increased.

Also debated in sports circles is whether playing professional sports contributes to some male athletes committing acts of domestic violence.

In recent years there have been many high profile cases, including the NFL’s Ray Rice, Boxing’s Floyd Mayweather, AFL’s Wayne Carey, and NRL’s Hazem El Masri, although he was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

In 2014 John Schuppe of America’s NBC News wrote that domestic violence was the second highest crime category in the NFL behind DUIs. He also went on to explain that in that year there were 12 players still taking the field, despite having domestic violence arrests in the past.

Child abuse survivor Jenny Szymanski said when it came to issues of domestic violence involving athletes it started with “young men who regard themselves as often above the law”.

Szymanski, who last year talked a teenager out of committing suicide at Caulfield train station, is a member of the Beyond Now panel. It has recently produced an app to assist people with mental health issues.

Other initiatives include a $30 million campaign to raise awareness about domestic violence, which is being rolled out nation-wide. Its target audience includes coaches and athletes.

Kyle Dove says more needs to be done in some sports. “In football there are now options for people who need assistance and there are avenues to rectifying problems. However in other sports maybe there is not enough recognition.”

A key member of the Box Hill Hawks VFL staff, Chris Monaghan, says more programs and education to the elite level would help.

Monaghan is the recruiting and list manager at Box Hill and has been involved in football at various levels for decades. He has seen the change that has occurred in his sport over the years.

“Most clubs have a welfare person. At AFL level that person is full-time, VFL clubs have a part-time person. Suburban clubs also have a similar person in the role. It is a lot more commonplace than in the past.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing or suffering with mental health issues contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 or through www.lifeline.org.au

Similarly if you or someone you know is experiencing sexual assault, and/or domestic or family violence call 1800RESPECT or visit www.1800respect.org.au for information and support.