Melbourne Vixens defender Kate Eddy is taking on a new role this year, but it’s not on court.
The 25-year-old was recently announced as one of 20 athletes taking up a role with the Australian Institute of Sport as a Mental Health Ambassador.
The championship Vixen will be heading out to schools and junior sporting clubs to give presentations and hold talks with early high school age kids, teaching them that mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness.
Students and young athletes will go through a six week program, touching on topics including mindfulness and mental fitness. They’ll have the opportunity to bring sessions home, talking to the ambassadors again at the end to review what they learned.
Speaking to The Inner Sanctum, Eddy is not only looking forward to helping the kids get the most out of it, but also learning more herself.
“[Mental health] is something that I’m always really passionate about and interested in, but I didn’t really know too much about it until I got that email,” she said of first being offered the opportunity.
“The big thing for me is that it’s really aimed at year 7 to 10s. Personally, I think that’s a really vulnerable age, that influences your life massively.
“Between years 7 to 10 there’s a lot of risk… trying new things and experimenting with certain types of things.
“I’ve always been really interested in [working] with that age group, and how to not just help, but give them the skillset and the tools to not be peer-pressured into certain things or if things don’t go your way, how to bounce back.”
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The last two seasons have given Eddy, all netballers, and by extension all athletes, a greater understanding of how to manage their mental health.
2020 saw the Suncorp Super Netball season held entirely in a hub in Queensland, with players from the six interstate teams required to stay in hotels away from family and friends for three months.
This season, the Vixens alongside many other teams found themselves not knowing where they were going to be when they went to bed the next day.
“I think the last 12 months for me have been really eye-opening in terms of mental health, and the way COVID has put a lot of pressure onto people,” Eddy said.
“For me personally as well, it’s taught me a lot not just to cope, but different tools to help you be mentally fit. You can train your mental fitness as well, just like your physical fitness on court and in the gym.
“It’s not necessarily more important, but you do definitely see more [awareness] now and over the past two years for sure.
“[Being a mental health ambassador is] not just so I can help others, it’s also been really great for me to learn for myself.”
Pre-season on court
Meanwhile on court, Eddy has been getting stuck into her third pre-season with the Vixens after the club’s busy signing period.
They welcomed back the core of the group, including Diamonds captain Liz Watson, shoring up the midcourt for both the short and long term.
Up in the circle, training partner Rahni Samason was elevated to the main squad, while Kiera Austin joins from Giants Netball.
The Vixens added in every area, but Eddy’s spot at wing defence appears on the surface to be lacking in depth.
She shared the role with the now departed Allie Smith, who made the switch to New South Wales and joined the reigning champions in the Swifts.
“We kind of swapped roles,” Eddy laughed, “she’s gone up to the Swifts where I used to be!”
But with another Diamond capable of rotating into the bib, Eddy believes that coach Simone McKinnis will have nothing to worry about when it comes to disrupting opposition midcourters.
“Jo [Weston] can play wing defence,” Eddy explained.
“I think last year we did use that change a lot [between Eddy and Smith], but it was more so for me personally playing catch up due to an injury I had in previous years.
“Goal defence wasn’t really an option too much just due to what I’d been able to achieve during pre-season.
“I’ve worked really hard in the off-season, and I have my own personal goals. I really want to be a starting seven player and I want to play 60 minutes of every single game.
“I know that it is a team sport, but I want to be able to put out [my best].
“Going back to the basics and working really hard on the court and off the court and being super fit, giving Simone full confidence that she didn’t need to pick another person.”
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