HOW I MAKE IT WORK...

SYD­NEY SWANS CAP­TAIN JOSH KENNEDY, 28, KNOWS SPORT­ING STARS CAN BUCKLE UN­DER IN­TENSE EX­PEC­TA­TIONS, ON THE FIELD AND OFF. HE TALKS ABOUT FIND­ING A HEALTHY BAL­ANCE AND MAIN­TAIN­ING A POS­I­TIVE MEN­TAL OUT­LOOK

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - as told to Dan­nielle Miller

AFL star Josh Kennedy talks men­tal health.

My ear­li­est mem­o­ries are of the first house I lived in grow­ing up, and of our huge back­yard. There were four kids in my fam­ily: three broth­ers and a sis­ter. Then there were our cousins. We would all run around out­side to­gether, play­ing cricket or footy. These were like early lessons in con­nect­ing to oth­ers and be­ing ac­tive, and they have stayed with me.

My dad was a pro­fes­sional AFL foot­ball player and my grand­fa­ther coached the [Hawthorn] Hawks to their first premier­ship. The men in my fam­ily ap­proached sport in the right way: they found the right bal­ance be­tween their love of it and their fam­ily com­mit­ments.

Now I’m a fa­ther to a lit­tle boy, two-year-old Emilio. His birth has been such a pos­i­tive, as it’s so im­por­tant to have a life out­side the game. It helps you keep things in per­spec­tive. My son will smile at me whether I have won, lost or had a draw.

There can be in­cred­i­ble pres­sure on and off the field. Ev­ery year there’s more scru­tiny, far more than in my fa­ther’s day. Your per­sonal life is con­stantly un­der the mi­cro­scope on so­cial me­dia, and in­ter­nally the club closely mon­i­tors your train­ing data, diet and sleep.

This can be in­tense. And I don’t know that men out­side sport mon­i­tor their own health enough. It’s im­por­tant to stop, take a deep breath, re­flect on where you are and ad­just things if need be. More guys are start­ing to ad­mit they’re not bul­let­proof and ex­press how they’re feel­ing, but there’s al­ways room to im­prove on learn­ing how to reach out. I know my wife Ana would at­test that I could.

Right now I am in a good place. I have a strong net­work of friends and am very close to my fam­ily. There’s also a solid base of sup­port within the club. I’m more open to try­ing any type of men­tal or phys­i­cal strat­egy that might help my per­for­mance on the field –

whether it’s med­i­ta­tion, golf or study. If some­thing is out there, I’ll have a go.

I have a lot of eyes watch­ing me: my team­mates’, the Swans fans’, and now my wife’s and son’s, as well. Emilio is ob­serv­ing Ana and me. We want him to do as we do, not just as we say. It is a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity, but I don’t let my­self over­think it. I just try to be au­then­tic. Josh is a Swisse AFL am­bas­sador. Men’s Health Week runs from June 12–18, 2017; men­shealth­week.org.au.

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