Offload programme highlighted as a sporting sensation in recent major study

Rugby League Cares’ health programme Offload – which Salford Red Devils are a founding member of – has been praised for its engagement with men and mental wellbeing, in a major academic study.

The research, carried out by Edge Hill University, can be found here and outlines the programme’s success in changing and saving lives, providing the men involved with a welcoming space to talk about their mental health.

Salford Red Devils Foundation are partnered with Rugby League Cares and State of Mind, who also support Offload, to give local men the opportunity to go behind the scenes of rugby league, learn the mental fitness techniques of professional players and be supported to develop their own winning mindset.

Offload is a 10-fixture season at the A J Bell stadium where men join forces with rugby league players, past and present, to understand the challenges of the game. The ability to deal with injury, moving to a new club, tactical changes, retirement and new careers beyond the game are discussed along with a player’s ability to juggle the everyday demands of life whilst performing at the top level.

Speaking on the Offload programme, Salford Red Devils foundation director Neil Blackburn said: This programme has been extremely successful and really made a substantial difference to our local community. We have engaged with hundreds of men who would not have engaged with traditional medicalised institutions. It has been a pleasure working with RLCares and other partners on this highly rewarding programme.

Our physical and mental health is so important, especially in such uncertain times. Programmes such as Offload are an essential part of the local provision an enhance the existing services.”

Sport and physical activity professor at Edge Hill University, Andy Smith, one of the three researchers into the Offload programme, said: “There has been a rapid growth in community sport and mental health programmes for men, but the key design characteristics of these programmes, and the roles played by delivery staff in their conception and development, have not yet been systematically or widely studied. Our research on the Offload programme begins to rectify this.

“Among other things, our analysis showed that men clearly preferred a non-clinical approach to discussing their mental health, often in less stigmatising environments like professional sports stadia, and using sporting analogies to support self-care.

“Having the sessions led by former professional sports people working alongside mental health and community sport experts made it a safe space and allowed participants to express themselves fully. This, in turn, provided great outcomes for the men involved.”

One participant in the programme said: “Some of them [the presenters] are people I’ve admired because I am a rugby league fan. When I’ve seen what they’ve been through, it made it easier for me to offload my problems in front of a few people, which I wouldn’t have done before.”

Emma Goldsmith, head of community at Rugby League Cares, said: “The power sport has to transform the lives of participants is well documented but the success we have seen in making transformational change to the quality of life of the men who have engaged in Offload is remarkable.

Offload is enabling us to connect with an audience that health service providers have traditionally found difficult to reach: the feedback we receive from participants is consistently positive and uplifting, and it’s a privilege for everyone at RL Cares to know we’re making such a difference.”

To find out more on how to get involved in Salford’s Offload programmes, email:

State of Mind | The art of offloading

The skill of Offloading

The theme of this year’s Betfred Super League State of Mind round is “Offload”.
An offload is when a player holding the ball is tackled but passes the ball to a team mate before the tackle is completed. Offloading is not an easy skill to master, but time it right and you can achieve sensational results and your team will score some fantastic tries.
Offloading in life is not an easy skill to master, but when under pressure, if you time it right you can achieve great results and prevent a problem building or getting worse.
By offloading and telling others about your problem or concern, you can relieve the pressures and start solving the problem and build a winning mindset.
The Offload Programme is currently run in partnership between State of Mind, Rugby League Cares and the club foundations at Salford Red Devils, Warrington Wolves and Widnes Vikings.
Over the course of the 10-week ‘season of fixtures’, men build their own mental fitness, whilst having fun, in a relaxed atmosphere and develop coping strategies to challenge difficult situations and learn how to recognise when people close to them may need their support.
Mike Cooper, the Warrington and England prop forward, said: “You have to be able to talk about your feelings with someone. When I moved to Australia to play for St George-Illawarra a couple of years ago, it was a tough time and I couldn’t have got through it without my wife.
“There was a little bit of homesickness and anxiety about the challenge ahead but we got through it together using tactics like setting ourselves goals.”
You can find out more about the Offload programme by visiting:

State of Mind | Ten ways to look after your mental health

10 ways to look after your mental health

It’s important to take care of yourself and get the most from life. Mental health is about the way you think and feel and your ability to deal with ups and downs. We’ve put together 10 practical ways to look after your mental health.
Making simple changes to how you live doesn’t need to cost a fortune or take up loads of time, but it can make a big difference.
Talk about your feelings
Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. Talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy.
Eat well
There are strong links between what we eat and how we feel – for example, caffeine and sugar can have an immediate effect. But food can also have a long-lasting effect on your mental health.
Keep in touch
Friends and family can make you feel included and cared for. They can offer different views from whatever’s going on inside your own head. They can help keep you active, keep you grounded and help you solve practical problems.
Take a break
A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. It could be a five-minute pause from cleaning your kitchen, a half-hour lunch break at work or a weekend exploring somewhere new. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you.
Accept who you are
Some of us make people laugh, some are good at maths, others cook fantastic meals. Some of us share our lifestyle with the people who live close to us, others live very differently. We’re all different.
Keep active
Experts believe exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep, look and feel better. Exercise also keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy.
Drink sensibly
We often drink alcohol to change our mood. Some people drink to deal with fear or loneliness, but the effect is only temporary.
Ask for help
None of us are superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things go wrong. If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help.
Do something you’re good at
What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing in the past? Enjoying yourself helps beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it and achieving something boosts your self-esteem.
Care for others
Caring for others is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you. It can even bring you closer together.

Squad | Ian Watson names his 19-man squad to take on Widnes

Head Coach Ian Watson has named his 19-man squad for the visit of Widnes Vikings on Thursday 14th June, 19:45pm kick-off. 
Both Ed Chamberlain and Greg Burke are in line to make their first team debuts for the Red Devils against parent club Widnes Vikings.
Gavin Bennion – who debuted for the Red Devils earlier in the season against Wigan Warriors – comes into the 19-man squad for Thursday’s game.
Mark Flanagan misses out after failing a concussion assessment following a collision with Hull FC winger Bureta Faraimo in last Friday’s game at the KCOM Stadium. Josh Jones is also absent with an ankle issue.
The squad in full is as follows:
Greg Johnson, Kris Welham, Junior Sa’u, Robert Lui, Jack Littlejohn, Craig Kopczak, Logan Tomkins, George Griffin, Lama Tasi, Tyrone McCarthy, Ben Nakubuwai, Josh Wood, Derrell Olpherts, Jake Bibby, Daniel Murray, Gavin Bennion, Jake Shorrocks, Ed Chamberlain, Greg Burke.
You can purchase tickets for our massive Betfred Super League clash with Widnes Vikings on Thursday at the The Salford Stadium at the Club Ticket Office, over the phone on 0161 786 1570 or online here!
#StandTogether with the Red Devils!

Paul Highton | “It was quite inspiring to be honest”

Last night 857 people assembled – breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest-ever Mental Health session – at the Halliwell Jones Stadium with Salford Red Devils Football and Player Welfare Manager Paul Highton being heavily involved in the event.
Highton said: “It really was a great event and it was quite inspiring to be honest.
“I think the previous record was around 668 and we managed to get over 800 people in there, it was a massive turnout and it was fantastic to be involved in something monumental like that.
“Guinness World Record or not it was nice to see so many people coming together in the Halliwell Jones Stadium last night all for the subject of mental health.
“There’s nothing more rewarding than spreading the word of mental awareness and the crowd really lapped it up and bought into it.
“It’s one of those taboo subjects is mental health as soon as you mention it people either want to turn and walk or try and change the subject.
“The more we can talk about it and use the people who have a profile like sportspersons or public figures the more it normalises mental health. This allows people to have a platform to talk about it and just give them that ability to feel confident that what they talk about isn’t going to get shunned.”
The event centred around six speakers – one of which being Paul Highton – each giving their own talk on a specific area regarding mental health with the Red Devils Football and Player Welfare Manager discussing ‘transition’.
Highton said: “I focused on transition, so I talked about my story from being a player for twenty years then retiring and setting up a business and how I struggled with a loss of identity and structure.
“I self-medicated and drank to try and change the way I was feeling, and I was telling the people in attendance that you don’t need to go down that route and encouraging people to get hobbies.
“We’ve all got more things going on that just our jobs and it’s important we notice that and take our identities away from solely what we do for work.”
The Red Devils and Paul Highton have a very strong and positive relationship with State of Mind with Salford donning the State of Mind logo on their 2017 Dacia Magic Weekend kit.
Salford Red Devils and Widnes Vikings are set to open this year’s Betfred Super League ‘State of Mind’ round on Thursday 14th June with Paul Highton setting out the Red Devils’ stall taking out Widnes mascot Kemik the Viking at last night’s event.
Highton said: “We were doing an end-to-end kicking competition and there was me and Wolfie [Warrington Wolves’ mascot] were paired up against Ian Smith – former referee – and Kemik the Viking [Widnes Vikings’ mascot].
“Unfortunately, Kemik crossed my path so I had to drop my shoulder and knock him to the floor with his head rolling off!”
Everyone at Salford would like to congratulate everyone that was involved in the event.

State of Mind | World Record Attempt at Halliwell Jones Stadium

Ahead of the Betfred Super League State of Mind round, an attempt to break the record for the World’s Largest Mental Health lesson will take place at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Wednesday June 6 (5-7pm).
Fans are being encouraged to come along and help break the current record of 688, achieved in Chennai, India earlier this year.
State of Mind has joined forces with North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Offload Rugby League and Warrington Wolves for the event.
Former players Danny Sculthorpe, Phil Veivers, Paul Highton, Jimmy Gittins and former referee Ian Smith will be helping to deliver the session.
The lesson will be led by Dr. Phil Cooper MBE (North West Boroughs NHS) from 6pm and will last 35 minutes. There will be pre lesson entertainment from 5pm.
Phil said: “This is a great opportunity to increase awareness of mental fitness and have a great time in a fantastic rugby stadium.”
Emma Goldsmith (Rugby League Cares) who co-ordinates the mental fitness programme running from Warrington Wolves, Widnes Vikings and Salford Red Devils said: “It is going to be a great night to take part in a world record attempt and help people know more about mental health issues in an interactive session in a great location.”
Karl Fitzpatrick, CEO Warrington Wolves, said: “Warrington Wolves are completely behind this world record attempt and try to promote positive mental fitness at every opportunity for all our staff and supporters ”
Rugby league is the only UK sport to theme a round of fixtures around mental fitness, with this year’s round taking place between June 14-17.
Tickets are free and the first 1,000 tickets can be accessed via Eventbrite using the link below:
If you do not wish to register online, you can just turn up on the day.
A State of Mind mental health session exclusive for the media to attend will be held in the build-up to the round on Friday June 1 at the The Salford Stadium, Salford (1pm). All are welcome to attend.

Fixtures | State of Mind Round for 2018 confirmed

State of Mind will take over the Betfred Super League once again next month for its annual dedicated round of fixtures in Round 18 (June 14-17).
This year’s theme is Offload, which links to the men’s mental fitness and wellbeing project run by Rugby League Cares in partnership with State of Mind and the club foundations at Super League clubs.
Offload helps challenge how the sporting world tackles issues such as depression and anxiety, and consists of a 10 week “season of fixtures” helping men to build their own mental fitness while having fun in a relaxed atmosphere and develop coping strategies to challenge difficult situations and learn how to recognise when people close to them may need their support.
The round kicks off with two of the clubs involved in the delivery of the Offload programme, Salford Red Devils and Widnes Vikings, facing each other in front of the Sky Sports TV cameras at the The Salford Stadium on Thursday June 14.
Dr. Phil Cooper MBE, co-founder and trustee of State of Mind, said: “The State of Mind -Offload’ round is coming to Super League for the eighth season and this has allowed many people to improve their mental fitness and has saved numerous lives. We would like to thank our partners The Rugby Football League, Rugby League Cares, Big Lottery and Oddballs and all the Super League Clubs for their support.
“In rugby league offloading is not an easy skill to master, but time it right and you can achieve sensational results and score some fantastic tries. Offloading in life is not an easy skill to master, but when under pressure, if you time it right you can achieve great results and prevent a problem building or getting worse.
“By offloading and telling others about your problem or concern you can relieve the pressure, start solving the problem and build a winning mindset.”
Emma Goldsmith, Offload Programme Manager at Rugby League Cares, said: “‘Many men across the Sport are now starting to talk to their mates and ‘Offload’ their issues when times get tough. State of Mind and the Offload programme are here to help men do that and give them practical support in a fun, friendly environment, when they need to a mate in their corner.”
The other games in the State of Mind Betfred Super League round see Leeds host St Helens and Huddersfield against Catalans on Friday June 15, Hull’s home game with Wigan on Saturday June 16 and Warrington’s trip to Wakefield and Castleford’s game against Hull KR on Sunday June 17.
As always, there will be plenty of State of Mind activity at the games during the round.
The ManVan, a unique travelling interactive exhibition that tackles men’s health issues, will also be present at the games at Salford, Hull and Castleford during the State of Mind round.
Driven in partnership between the Movember Foundation and Rugby League Cares, the ManVan which made its rugby league debut at the Dacia Magic Weekend in Newcastle.
Prior to the round, State of Mind and Offload will take attempt to break a Guinness World Record for largest mental health awareness lesson at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington on June 6. The current record is 688 people.
A State of Mind mental health session exclusive for the media to attend will be held in the build-up to the round on Friday June 1 at the The Salford Stadium, Salford (1pm). All are welcome to attend.
For more information on the Offload programme click here. 

Salford Red Devils Foundation launching two more Offload sessions

The Salford Red Devils Foundation have two new sets of Offload sessions due to begin this week.
Brand-new sessions at Salford University will launch on Wednesday 18th October before a second round of sessions will begin at the Probation Office after a successful first 10-week block.
The Red Devils Foundation are also currently running Monday evening (7pm) sessions at the The Salford Stadium with session 7 due to take place tonight (Monday 16th) around life balance.
There are also two Princes Trust groups currently running with one being based at Walkden 6th Form College and another at Salford City Campus.
Ambassadors for  the sessions include former Red Devil Paul Highton, former Salford Coach Phil Vievers, former Rugby League player Danny Sculthorpe and former Rugby League referee Ian Smith.
Offload is a Big Lottery funded project; being run by a number of partners, led by Salford Red Devils, Warrington Wolves and Widnes Vikings with Rugby League Cares. The project content has been devised by State of Mind and supported by Oddballs.
First half has personal stories and evidence based tools to build mental fitness. The second half is interactive, club based activities.
The sessions cover a range of things such as:

  • Basic mental fitness
  • Coping strategies
  • Stess management techniques
  • Mindfulness
  • Five ways to wellbeing
  • Work-life balance
  • Anger management
  • Emotional resilience
  • Solution focused problem solving

For anyone wishing to get involved or attend the Offload session contact Salford Red Devils Season Tickets for the 2018 season are on sale – full details here.

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