Boys don't cry but men should try?

Keeling, Joanne orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-0151-7234 and Palmer, Clive Alan orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-9925-2811 (2018) Boys don't cry but men should try? In: European Conference on Mental Health, 19th - 21st September 2018, Split, Croatia.

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This presentation seeks to share some initial insights from an ethnographic study into the behaviour of spectators within the rugby league community, and how these behaviours may affect the mental health and well-being of those involved within the game at grass roots level. With the recent establishment and embedding of initiatives aimed at increasing mental health awareness and the acceptability of help seeking within the sport, it is timely to discuss whether the culture exists at amateur levels to encourage and facilitate open dialogue and expression of feelings. In a sport dominated by men which arguably seeks to construct and maintain masculine identity as “hard men” resistant to being “soft”, it is worthy of exploring whether this doctrine of stoicism is encouraged by those on the touchline. One story from the Yorkshire Post in 1888 provides historical evidence of this phenomena, “The referee had to climb the boards, be ferried across the canal to make good his escape and the bus which he took along East Street was followed by an infuriated and howling mob uttering the most demonical yells”. A historical remark from Reverend Sydney Gedge, later to become a rugby club official could arguably provide much food for thought, “the spectator is an element foreign to sport”. This statement would perhaps seem alien to those fans who turn up every week to support players and consider themselves to be encouraging and supportive. However, research focused on fandom, coaching and parenthood reveals that there is a plethora of emotional and challenging behaviour exhibited by “supporters” that could have a negative effect on those on the field. This behaviour could be counterproductive to mental health awareness initiatives and indeed may perpetuate mental health issues and a reticence to seek help.

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