Former St Kilda footballer Justin Koschitzke has partnered with Movember for the latest instalment of Courageous Conversations.
Video produced by John Holdsworth and Dale Cochrane
Before Justin Koschitzke retired from the AFL after 200 games in 2013, he was struggling.
The St Kilda forward said his emotions and feelings around his own self-esteem and self-worth began eating away at him.
“It’s not always what it seems from the outside and certainly for me, under the surface there were other things bubbling away that made it a really scary, lonely and isolating place to be at times,” he told AFLPlayers.com.au as part of the Courageous Conversations series.
Koschitzke sought help from St Kilda’s sports psychologist but felt at the time he didn’t understand the tools that were on offer to him.
“I told him to jam it,” he said.
“(I wanted him to) tell me how to get a kick, tell me how to go out there and play footy, crash packs and do what I’m supposed to do.”
In hindsight, and now six years out of the game, Koschitzke utilises the mindfulness tools he was taught in his playing days as a means to support his mental health now.
But, at 18 there was a significant stigma around mental health problems and Koschitzke didn’t feel he had the tools to be vulnerable and have the courage to open up.
Since retiring, Koschitzke has moved to northern NSW and is now pursuing a part-time consultancy coaching career with the Gold Coast Suns.
Koschitzke has credited joining the Suns as an important step in helping to manage his mental health.
In his role helping to mentor and develop the club’s key position players, Koschitzke is experiencing the satisfaction of helping someone to have a better experience in the AFL system than what he did.
“To see somebody maybe avoid the performance anxiety, the isolation, the loneliness and the pure fear of walking up the race on game day and not being in an isolated position and self-loathe is a real gift,” he said.
The AFL Players’ Association is working with headspace to deliver a training program to players and staff, focussing on how to safely convey stories of lived experience of mental ill-health. The training from headspace supports an individual to identify what elements of their story they want to share and also clarify their purpose for sharing. This allows them to set boundaries ahead of any storytelling opportunity and prepare themselves for any impact of the story being made public which can come from media, community or friends and family who mightn’t be aware of the experience.
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