National Bank Open | “A lot of positives to take away” from the Mental Pause project

Changing an athlete’s habits is not easy. Tennis Canada saw this with its new Mental Pause project, implemented throughout the National Bank Open (OBN).

Posted at 4:39 p.m.

Katherine Harvey Pinard

Katherine Harvey Pinard
The Press

OBN is one of the first tournaments to launch such a mental health-focused wellness initiative. Private sessions of meditation, yoga and psychology in particular were offered to the players.

“There were a few sessions booked, but not a lot,” said Tennis Canada communications director Valérie Tétreault. The Press.

“The players who benefited from it were super happy,” she continues. Otherwise, they were happy that we took the initiative, but I feel like it would take a collective effort from all the tournaments for it to become normal and for them to be able to integrate it into each tournament. . »

Athletes also had quiet rooms available to them in the players’ lounge. These were already available in 2019, but this year they added soft music, electric blankets and diffusers. They were “very used and well appreciated”, maintains Mme Tetreault.

The Mental Pause project also included the Pledge component: fans, staff and volunteers were asked to make a written promise of a “positive tennis experience”. People who wished could also write messages on postcards which were then passed on to players.

The point in all of this was to show that despite the fact that they are superstars and can make a lot of money, they are human beings.

Valérie Tétreault, Communications Director at Tennis Canada

“For the players, it’s fun too,” she adds. In 2022, it’s rare that you receive a message that someone took the time to write by hand. »

Behind the scenes

In a series of capsules that will be published soon, host Roseline Fillion met with the players to ask them questions about how they deal with pressure. These aim to “get people to understand that it has an impact when there are reactions on social media and in the crowd”, explains Tetreault.

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Roseline Fillion

She gives the example of the performance in the quarter-finals of Félix Auger-Aliassime, who collapsed in front of the Norwegian Casper Ruud.

“Obviously, he’s the first to be disappointed with his performance,” she said. People might be disappointed and frustrated, but in the end, there are a lot of things that could have happened before the match, which we don’t know and which had an impact on his performance. »

Mission accomplished

Recent public speaking about mental health inspired this initiative at Tennis Canada. In particular that of Naomi Osaka, who burst into tears after comments launched from the bleachers in Indian Wells last March. Canadian Bianca Andreescu also shared her own mental health issues since her successes in 2019. She was also the project’s ambassador.

I think there are a lot of positives to take away. At the same time, we knew that we were also going to learn through this initiative. Already, we see how we can improve things and perhaps collaborate even more with the WTA, the ATP, the other tournaments, so that we push together in the same direction.

Valérie Tétreault, Communications Director at Tennis Canada

Tétreault was herself a professional tennis player. She retired in 2010. She knows the reality of athletes.

“Tennis is still a sport that is not always easy because the season is extremely long,” she notes.

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Valérie Tétreault when she was a professional tennis player at the Rogers Cup at Uniprix Stadium in 2010.

“Me, for a long time, I traveled alone. When you’ve been on the road alone for five or six weeks, if you haven’t been able to string together victories or your results aren’t necessarily up to your expectations, yes, it becomes difficult and you feel even more alone or crowded.

“I’m a little jealous all the same to know that the players will be able to benefit from it and I would have liked to have that in my time. »

Ultimately, the idea of ​​the Mental Pause project was to generate a discussion around mental health. “Thereupon, we say mission accomplished”, launches Mme Tetreault.

Dogs too?

If it hopes that other tournaments adopt this way of doing things, Tennis Canada also intends to improve the project from year to year. In Toronto, several athletes, including Belinda Bencic or Bianca Andreescu, have expressed their wish to bring their dog.

“Travelling with an animal would be therapeutic for them,” explains Valérie Tétreault. It helps them to be more grounded too. That, I found that interesting, because it’s a comment that came from several people. Logistically, it creates some headaches, but I think it’s a great challenge at the same time. »

“It just shows that sometimes it doesn’t have to be very complicated,” she continues. It’s just to bring [les athlètes] to also feel at home and to be able to pick up some tennis too. »

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National Bank Open | “A lot of positives to take away” from the Mental Pause project

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