Cockayne – Players should focus off the pitch too

Hull KR threequarter Ben Cockayne believes that finding activities and work outside of rugby is vital for the mental health of players.

Cockayne himself has built a sports nutrition and personal training business which has helped him to steer clear of the off-field problems which dogged him earlier in his career.

“In my opinion, that’s something which is very important,” he told State of Mind.

“The RFL should continue to drive, particularly into players who are the age of 26, 27, because without my focus away from rugby league now, I would certainly be panicking, and wondering what I would be going to do next.

“I left school with no real grades. I’ve got a qualification in brick laying, which I really don’t enjoy doing at all, and I’m also crap at it.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to find something in business and my personal training that’s something I love doing.

“I could quite comfortably retire this year if I wanted, because I’ve set up a solid enough business.

“So I think for players that are coming to the back end of their career, it’s something that the RFL should really be promoting and encouraging, which I believe they are anyway.

“The experiences I’ve had personally in life, my armed forces career and whatever. I’ve also been in a fair bit of bother.

“As I’ve got older and I’ve found something away from rugby league to occupy me, all those issues I previously had have been put to bed.

“They’re long gone, and I like to try and pass on that knowledge and experience to the younger fellas.

“We see a lot of young kids now who have come straight from school, and gone straight into a full-time environment, and they’ve got no real experience of the real world.

“People who need support can slip into the wrong hands, or the right hands. I don’t think there’s any middle ground with that.

“I think those guys are probably going to be more prone to problems later on in life if they don’t get some real life experience, so to speak.

“I see young kids coming through now, and if I see them spending too much time, say, in the bookies, for argument’s sake, I do try and get a hold of it and put my arm round these kids and tell them the importance of it.

“For me, as a person, to have gone through what I have, has really helped me become the person I am today.

“It’s certainly stood me in good stead, in the greater scheme of things, and for later on in life.”

Cockayne also urges young players who may be experiencing mental health issues, or stress of any kind, to make full use of the support network which is available within the sport nowadays.

“First and foremost, you need to speak to someone you trust,” he said.

“State of Mind is there for you. But maybe grab one of your senior players who has been through a similar experience, or just somebody you feel you can trust.

“If you have got any problems, you need to speak sooner rather than later, because otherwise they will only escalate.”

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