Where did the concept for Tackle Your Feelings come from?

By Créde Sheehy-Kelly


Tackle Your Feelings is the product of many years working with professional and elite athletes to enhance on-pitch performance and off-pitch welfare.


Mental wellbeing is a subject often associated with stigma, particularly among young males. In our society that idolises the macho ideal of physical and mental toughness, it’s no wonder that many people are still uncomfortable discussing their emotions and admitting to feelings of vulnerability.


When we think of the stereotypical high performance athlete it conjures up images of mentally tough, physically strong, battle-hardened sportspeople. Emotional vulnerability is the last thing that springs to mind. However an IRUPA member survey of male professional rugby players in Ireland conducted in 2014 showed that mental wellbeing was an area of concern for many players. The results revealed that high percentages of players struggled with mental wellbeing issues such as worrying about playing performance (67%), trouble sleeping as a result of this worry (74%) and relationship challenges (40%).



The concept for Tackle Your Feelings arose from seeing how athletes, including professional rugby players, were more than willing to address emotional challenges that were not necessarily linked with their sport once they realised the performance benefits that followed.


The key was that once athletes felt they had a ‘legitimate’ reason to talk about their emotional challenges they were much more comfortable looking for support and working through them.


IRUPA recognised an opportunity to apply this logic on a much broader scale to change the landscape of mental wellbeing in our society. If we could make emotional vulnerability ‘acceptable’ on a national scale then it would open the door for more people to embrace the idea of proactively working on their mental wellbeing.


IRUPA’s members decided to leverage the unique platform of professional rugby to get the message out there and Tackle Your Feelings was born. Ambassadors from all four provinces opted, not only to speak about this important topic, but to actually lead by example and share their own stories of overcoming tough times.


IRUPA’s aim for the Tackle Your Feelings campaign is to increase the number of people who proactively work on their mental wellbeing on a daily basis. We have a vision for a society where emotional vulnerability is viewed as a strength. Where being honest with yourself about how you are feeling is brave. Where it’s second nature to connect with your emotions. Where people feel empowered to open up to others for support.


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