Representatives of Swindon Wildcats visit primary school to talk to students about mental health

By Jessica Durston - 9 March 2022

  • Aaron (left) Emil (centre) and Renny (right) spoke to the children about the importance of mental health

    Aaron (left) Emil (centre) and Renny (right) spoke to the children about the importance of mental health

Orchid Vale Primary School had a visit from members of the Swindon Wildcats team with aims of raising awareness about mental health.

Pupils were treated to an assembly presentation by members of the Swindon Wildcats team

Swindon Wildcats' Coach and player Aaron Nell, player Emil Svec and goalie Renny Marr took a trip to Orchid Vale Primary School to give a presentation about the importance of mental health. 

The morning's schedule included two assemblies lead by Aaron Nell to accomodate all the pupils across all year groups, a hockey training session on the school's AstroTurf sports court area, and a further 1:1 style question and answer session with the players. 

Aaron shared his thoughts around attending Orchid Vale for this presentation: "Our mental health and wellbeing is such an important part of all of our lives and the more that the children can learn about it now, the better.

“We all deal with our own mental health in different ways, and we hope that any little thing that we can say or any pieces of advice we can offer, will help the kids here.”

Nell first talked to the children about Swindon Wildcats and answered general questions about the team and the sport in general. The players brought some kit items into the school with them to show to the children - these kit items included a hockey stick, ice skates, a Wildcats jersey, a helmet and the trophy they won from their match against Leeds in December of last year.

After this, Orchid Vale's Emma McCarthy started the conversation around mental health. She asked the children to put their hands up with examples of what they could do to help look after their mental health. One pupil said "Learn new things", another said "Eating healthy to help your mind" and others said "Going to bed early" and "Talking about things."

The Wildcats members eased the children into what is quite a complex topic for primary students, by explaining that their headspace can change depending on whether they win or lose games. Aaron was keen to share some advice with the youngsters. 

He addressed the assembly hall, making reference to the importance of mental balance and wellbeing: "You don’t want to be too high or too low. And you don’t want to be worrying about things you cannot control.

"It's important to have fun and enjoy yourselves at your ages. Remember, the sun will come up tomorrow and you will be okay.”

Emma added that it is important for the pupils to talk to someone about their mental health. She asked each of the players to give examples of who they choose to speak to about their mental health or when they are struggling. Aaron, Emil and Renny each said their fathers and their teammates, and added that the children should speak to those that they trust, and those whom they are close to. 

After the assemblies, a group of the school's pupil premium students were invited to join Aaron, Emil and Renny for a hockey training session outside on the AstroTurf courts. Aaron assumed the position of coach and Renny placed himself in goal, with Emil on hand to provide extra help. The children used small balls instead of pucks and got an idea of what is takes to become a hockey player. 

When asked his thoughts about his school visit, Swindon Wildcats goalie Renny said: "When we were growing up, we never really got anything like this. We learnt about mental health and wellbeing and how to manage it as we got older.

"I think the earlier you learn about it the better, and so I’m glad we have been able to come into Orchid Vale and raise awareness and help educate the kids on some touchy subjects."

After the training session, other students from various year groups joined the pupil premium for a smaller 1:1 style question and answer session with the three players. The conversation around mental health continued. 

Aaron, Emil and Renny talked in simple terms about separating life and work, and making sure to have time for fun. They also discussed self-control and how to manage frustration and strong emotions. Aaron said it is important  to avoid overthinking – a message echoed by Emma.

Emma prompted the ice hockey players to share their thoughts about boys not talking about their feelings as much as girls and why it is important to do so.

Aaron told the group: “It’s great to talk. Talking makes you feel better.”

They also finished the session by mentioning social media and the impacts it can have on individuals. The three Wildcats said the children should not ‘read too much into negative things online.’

Self-confidence was another topic that the group touched upon. Renny told the children: “Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.”

When asked about his experiences at the school, Wildcats player Emil said: "“This has been the first time I have come to an English school to meet and talk with the children, and I have enjoyed it. I hope they have enjoyed our presentation and I think it is good for them to talk about mental health."

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