Mental health
Virtual wellbeing check

Feelings of pressure, isolation and performance anxiety are commonly experienced by athletes, however it isn’t always easy for clubs to identify those who are struggling. Richard Lucas, founder of GoVox, explains how technology can help


What’s your background?
Professionally, I have 27 years of leadership experience in a FTSE100 company. Personally, I have a very keen interest and social involvement in Rugby Union, which I’ve played from a very young age and has always been part of my social circle. As I got older I took on various roles in community rugby, taking over as Chairman of Hitchin Rugby Club in the UK in 2015.

I’m also the father to two young adults, who are 18 and 21 years old.

Where did the idea for GoVox come from?
In late 2018, we very sadly lost a number of players at grassroots rugby level to suicide. At the same time, I had a number of ‘near miss’ incidents linked to teams at work. My involvement in mental health and wellbeing before this had been very light touch; looking back now, pretty embarrassingly so.

We got together with a number of leaders across sports and industry, along with representatives from MIND and other mental health service providers. Initially we wanted to check if these were isolated cases, but unfortunately we quickly found out that they weren’t, and the cases had a couple of things in common.

Predominantly – but not always – they were male, but in every case we looked at the key thing that stood out is they were not the people who you would have suspected were struggling – in many cases they were the life and soul of the party and had no obvious issues they were dealing with.

We did a pretty deep review of the advice and support available, and it was pretty good. The ‘gap’ we identified was related to those who have responsibility for a group of people, such as a manager, leader, coach or pastoral care. They are all very busy and needed help to:

• Stay connected with their teams

• Quickly identify who needs their support

• Measure the impact on a team and individuals when situational factors change, because everyone has a different level of resilience.

This is where the GoVox Wellbeing Check In was created, as a tool to help ‘Prioritise the Conversations that Matter’.

The Check is quick, easy and non-intrusive. It has hit on the culture of people being very open and honest with their phone screens and happy to share on social media, etc.

How does GoVox work?
A club signs up its members; a really simple process. At the same time they identify which people in their organisation are best placed to be the first line of support for their members.

GoVox then runs a fully managed service, with a regular check-in process. This is normally a monthly process but some clubs have opted for more often, particularly during times of change and disruption.

The users are invited to ‘check-in’ and answer a series of wellbeing linked questions. These are non-intrusive but are designed to draw out any key reasons for concern. Users are also asked if they would like to catch up with someone and, finally, they can leave a comment. It takes about 30 seconds to check in, and there’s no log-in required.

The results are presented via a live Online Wellbeing Dashboard to the key support people in the club. The process isn’t anonymous, so if someone requires support then they know exactly who it is.

The insights include ‘red flags’, to draw attention to specific areas of concern. Each user also has their ‘Happiness Score’ calculated, so you can track over time and see at a glance how people are tracking.

What are the common risks to athlete mental health?
GoVox has been adopted at both elite level and grassroots level across a range of sports. Athletes are at risk from the same challenges as anyone in life and this will change over time, due to their specific circumstances.

We do, however, see an increased issue with athletes around:

• Isolation and lack of connection

• Anxiety, specifically a fear of performance and worthiness

• Depression, particularly during poor performance times and towards the end of an athlete’s career.

A competitive environment and personality can also lead athletes to compare themselves more regularly to others and can lead to a range of eating and control disorders.

How are the wellbeing questions formulated?
We have a growing set of base questions, which have been developed by experts and shaped and improved through use via GoVox.

We share these with each new organisation, but tweak and amend them so they are a perfect fit to their communication style and cultural communications delivery style.

How much detail is provided about wellbeing?
We have a wide range of data that maps ‘Happiness’ as a key indicator, driven across a range of questions. We have seen this move up and down based on internal and external factors.

Interestingly we can map how anxiety, and any movement there, can impact sleep and positivity.

We’re also able to map and measure the impact of any actions taken to mitigate a particular issue – without directly asking about the area of concern.

Do you use any AI technology?
We are currently exploring some software that can highlight concerns based on key words from users. We expect this to be particularly helpful in analysing the comments users write during check in, especially considering we have completed over 250k check-ins this year.

Do you offer any assistance to clubs on how to support struggling members, once they have been identified?
Yes, we teamed up with our local MIND – they saw the value in our service and we now do check-ins with their teams.

We arrange for mental health training for clubs via MIND; in fact we have just completed a pilot for the Rugby Football Union in Hertfordshire, UK.

GoVox’s clients include:

Crystal Palace Foundation
• Bristol Rovers
• Welwyn Rugby Club
• Bishop’s Stortford Rugby Club
• Thame Swim Club
• Stevenage Football Club
• Swim England

What difference does GoVox make to sports clubs?
Richard Lucas was moved to create GoVox after several suicides occurred in grassroots rugby

• Higher engagement
• Helps to prevent personal crisis moments
• Improves club culture
• Retains talent
• Specific support during COVID-19 and lockdown
• Enables leaders to lead and support

Case study: Swim England

Swim England utilises the GoVox platform to monitor and support the wellbeing of two different squads: the Performance squad, comprising elite athletes, some of whom compete in the Commonwealth games, and the England International Junior squad, predominantly composed of athletes who are under 18. As well as mental health and wellbeing, Swim England is able to sense check training and performance through the platform.

Most athletes are scattered across the country, making it difficult to support the squad members’ wellbeing. GoVox is a very easy way of identifying any individuals that may require some support, and in what key areas.

COVID-19 support

The team currently uses the check-ins on a monthly basis to support athletes through the COVID-19 pandemic; typically Swim England prefers to check in once every two months, but during these uncertain and difficult times, an increased frequency is a much better way of providing proactive, effective wellbeing support.

Diane Elliot, sport science and sport medicine manager at Swim England says: “We have found GoVox really valuable in being able to monitor people that we don’t see every day. It’s a really helpful platform for picking out people that may benefit from a chat and is a very useful tool in terms of managing and supporting wellbeing.”

Swim England uses GoVox to check in with its athletes across the country
Case study: Crystal Palace FC’s Palace for Life Foundation

"Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of employees at the Foundation has always been a priority for us, but with the onset of lockdown, we identified an increased need for more regular check-ins with staff. We’d been looking at tools that could help us support our staff members through isolation, and identify any issues that hadn’t been picked up in one-to-ones with line managers,” says Duncan Robinson, head of HR and business support.

“GoVox was the ideal platform for us as it offers regular check-ins, with clear sight of any developing trends, alongside identifying specific areas in which staff may benefit from support. It can be customised and adapted to the needs of our organisation, as well as having a wide bank of recommended questions that others in the football arena are utilising.”

GoVox is supporting employees at Crystal Palace FC
Case study: Adam Howard, Hitchin Rugby Club

Like all of us, 28 year old Adam has had his routine completely disrupted over the past few months. Having experienced mental health struggles in the past, Adam reflects on how the lockdown has been affecting him.

“I think of myself as a positive person, I’m always out and about and my lifestyle is really active. Being cut off from being able to coach and play rugby, as well as not being able to go to work; I really struggled feeling isolated from people and my mental wellbeing started to become affected.”

Adam plays, and coaches, for Hitchin Rugby Club. As a busy, active and outgoing person, Adam had acknowledged the friendly online check-ins in the past, and responded positively without much afterthought, but it wasn’t until lockdown began that he came to realise the full benefits of the reach outs.

Open conversation

Within the first two weeks of lockdown, Adam received a check-in from the GoVox platform. “It was really casual,” he says, “but it made all the difference because it gave me a tool to express my feelings. It was the open conversation I needed during a time where communication had been so drastically changed.”

“I responded to the check-in – it was almost a bit of a rant to get things off my chest – and just by actively putting my thoughts down in one place, I felt better. The next day I got a call from someone at the rugby club, and that chat made the world of difference. From then I carried on using the platform to log my feelings for the next few weeks, and now I’m feeling so much more positive.”

No barriers

Having previously struggled with mental wellbeing, Adam knows that having open conversations like this can’t be underestimated. He believes that being able to express his feelings, and be heard, has made all the difference to being able to tackle lockdown and the challenges it has brought.

“The great thing about GoVox is that you don’t have to specifically ask for help, which can be a huge barrier. You know that you’re going to be heard by the right people – it really is a weight off your shoulders.”

 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Fit Tech
2021 issue 1

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Leisure Management - Virtual wellbeing check

Mental health

Virtual wellbeing check


Feelings of pressure, isolation and performance anxiety are commonly experienced by athletes, however it isn’t always easy for clubs to identify those who are struggling. Richard Lucas, founder of GoVox, explains how technology can help

Richard Lucas (Centre) in action for Hitchin RFC photo: Martin Wiggins

What’s your background?
Professionally, I have 27 years of leadership experience in a FTSE100 company. Personally, I have a very keen interest and social involvement in Rugby Union, which I’ve played from a very young age and has always been part of my social circle. As I got older I took on various roles in community rugby, taking over as Chairman of Hitchin Rugby Club in the UK in 2015.

I’m also the father to two young adults, who are 18 and 21 years old.

Where did the idea for GoVox come from?
In late 2018, we very sadly lost a number of players at grassroots rugby level to suicide. At the same time, I had a number of ‘near miss’ incidents linked to teams at work. My involvement in mental health and wellbeing before this had been very light touch; looking back now, pretty embarrassingly so.

We got together with a number of leaders across sports and industry, along with representatives from MIND and other mental health service providers. Initially we wanted to check if these were isolated cases, but unfortunately we quickly found out that they weren’t, and the cases had a couple of things in common.

Predominantly – but not always – they were male, but in every case we looked at the key thing that stood out is they were not the people who you would have suspected were struggling – in many cases they were the life and soul of the party and had no obvious issues they were dealing with.

We did a pretty deep review of the advice and support available, and it was pretty good. The ‘gap’ we identified was related to those who have responsibility for a group of people, such as a manager, leader, coach or pastoral care. They are all very busy and needed help to:

• Stay connected with their teams

• Quickly identify who needs their support

• Measure the impact on a team and individuals when situational factors change, because everyone has a different level of resilience.

This is where the GoVox Wellbeing Check In was created, as a tool to help ‘Prioritise the Conversations that Matter’.

The Check is quick, easy and non-intrusive. It has hit on the culture of people being very open and honest with their phone screens and happy to share on social media, etc.

How does GoVox work?
A club signs up its members; a really simple process. At the same time they identify which people in their organisation are best placed to be the first line of support for their members.

GoVox then runs a fully managed service, with a regular check-in process. This is normally a monthly process but some clubs have opted for more often, particularly during times of change and disruption.

The users are invited to ‘check-in’ and answer a series of wellbeing linked questions. These are non-intrusive but are designed to draw out any key reasons for concern. Users are also asked if they would like to catch up with someone and, finally, they can leave a comment. It takes about 30 seconds to check in, and there’s no log-in required.

The results are presented via a live Online Wellbeing Dashboard to the key support people in the club. The process isn’t anonymous, so if someone requires support then they know exactly who it is.

The insights include ‘red flags’, to draw attention to specific areas of concern. Each user also has their ‘Happiness Score’ calculated, so you can track over time and see at a glance how people are tracking.

What are the common risks to athlete mental health?
GoVox has been adopted at both elite level and grassroots level across a range of sports. Athletes are at risk from the same challenges as anyone in life and this will change over time, due to their specific circumstances.

We do, however, see an increased issue with athletes around:

• Isolation and lack of connection

• Anxiety, specifically a fear of performance and worthiness

• Depression, particularly during poor performance times and towards the end of an athlete’s career.

A competitive environment and personality can also lead athletes to compare themselves more regularly to others and can lead to a range of eating and control disorders.

How are the wellbeing questions formulated?
We have a growing set of base questions, which have been developed by experts and shaped and improved through use via GoVox.

We share these with each new organisation, but tweak and amend them so they are a perfect fit to their communication style and cultural communications delivery style.

How much detail is provided about wellbeing?
We have a wide range of data that maps ‘Happiness’ as a key indicator, driven across a range of questions. We have seen this move up and down based on internal and external factors.

Interestingly we can map how anxiety, and any movement there, can impact sleep and positivity.

We’re also able to map and measure the impact of any actions taken to mitigate a particular issue – without directly asking about the area of concern.

Do you use any AI technology?
We are currently exploring some software that can highlight concerns based on key words from users. We expect this to be particularly helpful in analysing the comments users write during check in, especially considering we have completed over 250k check-ins this year.

Do you offer any assistance to clubs on how to support struggling members, once they have been identified?
Yes, we teamed up with our local MIND – they saw the value in our service and we now do check-ins with their teams.

We arrange for mental health training for clubs via MIND; in fact we have just completed a pilot for the Rugby Football Union in Hertfordshire, UK.

GoVox’s clients include:

Crystal Palace Foundation
• Bristol Rovers
• Welwyn Rugby Club
• Bishop’s Stortford Rugby Club
• Thame Swim Club
• Stevenage Football Club
• Swim England

What difference does GoVox make to sports clubs?
Richard Lucas was moved to create GoVox after several suicides occurred in grassroots rugby

• Higher engagement
• Helps to prevent personal crisis moments
• Improves club culture
• Retains talent
• Specific support during COVID-19 and lockdown
• Enables leaders to lead and support

Case study: Swim England

Swim England utilises the GoVox platform to monitor and support the wellbeing of two different squads: the Performance squad, comprising elite athletes, some of whom compete in the Commonwealth games, and the England International Junior squad, predominantly composed of athletes who are under 18. As well as mental health and wellbeing, Swim England is able to sense check training and performance through the platform.

Most athletes are scattered across the country, making it difficult to support the squad members’ wellbeing. GoVox is a very easy way of identifying any individuals that may require some support, and in what key areas.

COVID-19 support

The team currently uses the check-ins on a monthly basis to support athletes through the COVID-19 pandemic; typically Swim England prefers to check in once every two months, but during these uncertain and difficult times, an increased frequency is a much better way of providing proactive, effective wellbeing support.

Diane Elliot, sport science and sport medicine manager at Swim England says: “We have found GoVox really valuable in being able to monitor people that we don’t see every day. It’s a really helpful platform for picking out people that may benefit from a chat and is a very useful tool in terms of managing and supporting wellbeing.”

Swim England uses GoVox to check in with its athletes across the country
Case study: Crystal Palace FC’s Palace for Life Foundation

"Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of employees at the Foundation has always been a priority for us, but with the onset of lockdown, we identified an increased need for more regular check-ins with staff. We’d been looking at tools that could help us support our staff members through isolation, and identify any issues that hadn’t been picked up in one-to-ones with line managers,” says Duncan Robinson, head of HR and business support.

“GoVox was the ideal platform for us as it offers regular check-ins, with clear sight of any developing trends, alongside identifying specific areas in which staff may benefit from support. It can be customised and adapted to the needs of our organisation, as well as having a wide bank of recommended questions that others in the football arena are utilising.”

GoVox is supporting employees at Crystal Palace FC
Case study: Adam Howard, Hitchin Rugby Club

Like all of us, 28 year old Adam has had his routine completely disrupted over the past few months. Having experienced mental health struggles in the past, Adam reflects on how the lockdown has been affecting him.

“I think of myself as a positive person, I’m always out and about and my lifestyle is really active. Being cut off from being able to coach and play rugby, as well as not being able to go to work; I really struggled feeling isolated from people and my mental wellbeing started to become affected.”

Adam plays, and coaches, for Hitchin Rugby Club. As a busy, active and outgoing person, Adam had acknowledged the friendly online check-ins in the past, and responded positively without much afterthought, but it wasn’t until lockdown began that he came to realise the full benefits of the reach outs.

Open conversation

Within the first two weeks of lockdown, Adam received a check-in from the GoVox platform. “It was really casual,” he says, “but it made all the difference because it gave me a tool to express my feelings. It was the open conversation I needed during a time where communication had been so drastically changed.”

“I responded to the check-in – it was almost a bit of a rant to get things off my chest – and just by actively putting my thoughts down in one place, I felt better. The next day I got a call from someone at the rugby club, and that chat made the world of difference. From then I carried on using the platform to log my feelings for the next few weeks, and now I’m feeling so much more positive.”

No barriers

Having previously struggled with mental wellbeing, Adam knows that having open conversations like this can’t be underestimated. He believes that being able to express his feelings, and be heard, has made all the difference to being able to tackle lockdown and the challenges it has brought.

“The great thing about GoVox is that you don’t have to specifically ask for help, which can be a huge barrier. You know that you’re going to be heard by the right people – it really is a weight off your shoulders.”


Originally published in Fit Tech 2021 issue 1

Published by Leisure Media Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385 | Contact us | About us | © Cybertrek Ltd