21 May 2020
MyPlayers' Hilana Claassens says most South African rugby players think vulnerability means weakness.
In her role as national player development manager/industrial psychologist, Claassens is responsible for the off-the-field development of South Africa’s rugby players.
Shortly after joining MyPlayers in 2018, Claassens was part of a needs analysis, which resulted in a National Player Development Programme with five pillars, including mental health.
'Traditional masculinity – what players believe defines being a man – still plays a big part in South African society,' she tells RugbyRocks.com.
'Think about it. A five-year-old boy runs, falls very hard and is told: “Don’t cry. You are a big boy. Only girls cry."'
Claassens says it’s due to this mindset that most players equate vulnerability with weakness.
'That’s what a lot of boys are taught from a young age. But being a man is being human and being human means you can be tough and loving, strong and caring; that you can lead and be vulnerable.'
MyPlayers is trying to break the stigma around mental health, which Claassens admits will take time.
'This means helping players to unlearn what has been taught to them for years and years. Like Lelia Schott said, "Perhaps if tearful little boys were comforted instead of shamed, there wouldn’t be so many angry men struggling to empathise with emotions.'
Is a player struggling mentally? Signs to look out for:
MyPlayers' mental well-being hotline: 086-0995-149