We spoke to England and Wasps fullback Danielle Waterman about her work with Giselle Mather to raise funds for the Samaritans
When Wasps' women's director of rugby Giselle Mather finishes the London Marathon this weekend, she'll have England fullback Danielle Waterman to thank for any aches and pains she feels in the aftermath.
One of the most well known female coaches in the game, Mather is running for the Samaritans, after the hopeful behest of Waterman, a supporter of the charity who had managed to secure a spot in the race for fundraising.
With the issue of mental health and the wellbeing of athletes close to the heart of both, despite the need to convince Mather to get her running shoes on, they are keen to highlight the good work the Samaritans do in an area that is vital to sport.
"I had the place to fill and so I called her to ask her if she'd do it and left a voicemail," Waterman recalls.
"She called me back and said she'd had to listen to it four times to fully comprehend that I was actually asking her to run the marathon - it look a bit of persuading after that but we are raising awareness of a brilliant cause."
Waterman joined Wasps last season and has been in superb form for club and country this year - and much of it she puts down to the work Mather does in ensuring that those who play for her are supported as people first.
"We talk about mental health and wellbeing for players a lot, and for me one of her biggest assets as a coach is just that she 'gets people' - she puts people before players and that means she gets the best out of them. It's why I have enjoyed playing so much this year for Wasps and England and the work that goes into the mental support for players is a huge part of what she is about as a coach."
Mather for her part says anything that raises awareness of mental health is a positive - even if it means running 20 odd miles through London.
"When it comes to athletes, I have seen first hand that how they are perceiving their world at any given moment is critical to their performance, quality of training and internal motivation. The phrase "playing with a smile on your face" in my coaching experience has always produced a more accomplished and complete performance as well as a more measured response to the outcome."
"I am running to raise money for the Samaritans, who are not only there to help when the going gets really tough, but are also genuine promotors in raising awareness about how powerful simple communication is."
Waterman herself was part of a powerful mental health campaign in rugby last year when she was front and centre of the RPA's 'Lift the Weight' campaign, discussing her anxiety around a long term injury.
"Making sure that athletes know it's ok to talk is what that campaign was all about and it's such an important message," she says.
"As an athlete when you're struggling mentally, it can be something major like a long term injury, it can be the stresses around selection, getting dropped, losing form and so on that can really affect you but it's also just the same issues everyone else faces too - financial stresses, issues with your partners and so on. And when you've got that and when you're performing in high pressure environments like sport, that can have a huge impact."
Having taken a leading role in supporting younger players, using all the benefit of her 82 caps, Waterman says that it's vital that every player receives support no matter where they are in their career or what level they are playing at.
"I think when it comes to playing for England for example, the younger and newer players will get a lot of support and help to make sure that their confidence and mental strength is there as they start their journeys, but I think the senior and experienced players need the same thing. Everyone needs to know there is someone they can talk to no matter what stage they are at."
“This is relevant if you are an athlete or in everyday life, and why I feel the work that a charity like Samaritans is so important. They provide the opportunity to talk to someone away from your closest support. Just like in my world as a rugby player, life can be tough and isn’t always perfect that’s for sure. I have seen first hand you can be far more successful if you’re confident, have a clear mind to make decisions and enjoy what you do.”
You can donate to help Giselle Mather reach her target here on her Justgiving page