Football addresses player mental health with teamwide program and app

Elina Bishoyi | The Chronicle

The Mason High School Football Team decided to tackle something new this year: mental health.

Over the summer, coaches of the Mason High School (MHS) Football team spoke on a panel at the Athletes in Action (AIA) event to talk about mental health. AIA is an organization working for the betterment of the physical and mental health of athletes. Having backgrounds working with mental health, Brandon Sethi and Alex Beurket attended and spoke at this panel, where they introduced the app Restoic. 

The recent suicide of a former player pushed the MHS Football coaches and players to make a more focused effort towards addressing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. After being connected to the parent of a student athlete who struggled with mental health issues, the coaches of the MHS Football Team discovered Restoic. Danny Cavic and Ian Gulbransen founded Restoic to improve the mental health of athletes. The app, Restoic, focuses on the physical and mental health of athletes from any sport and has been used nationwide by athletes and coaches.

Beurket, the MHS Hope Squad advisor and Junior Varsity head coach for the football team said he found the app to help overcome the stigma of mental health among his high school athletes.

“[Restoic is] like a bridge to mental health conversations because football players, who are supposed to be tough males, are very vulnerable,” Beurket said. “But this was a way to begin having sports conversations that can lead us into those mental health conversations.”

Senior Dominic Bommarito, one of the captains for the MHS Football Team, has seen the effects that Restoic has had on the team’s dynamic.  Specifically, Bommarito said that the team’s conversations are far more open and centered around mental health and players’ well-being.

“Our team word this year was unity,” Bommarito said. “Not just talking about [everyday] things, but also asking things like ‘Are you struggling with something? If you are, talk to me because I’m here for you.’” 

Restoic offers free features, along with a paid 4, 8 and 12-week program. The app’s main features include guided meditation, podcasts, breathwork, binaural beats and music that helps with relaxation and mood.  Each program has the same goal, however, the longer programs have more content for the team.

Besides opening up the conversations about mental health on the football field, Bommarito has seen the effects of the app on his personal life. Bommarito said that the features and podcasts have taught him techniques and skills that he will use after the football season and even high school.

“The things that I learned from Restoic I’m gonna take into college,” Bommarito said. “[When dealing with] the stress I’m going to get, I’ll remember my breathing techniques. Knowing that I have an app like Restoic comforts me because if I’m struggling, I can go into the app.”

The MHS Football team participated in the 4-week Restoic program to try the app for the first time over the summer. The players were assigned homework to listen to podcasts and update a goal and habit tracker every week. 

“What we are hoping to do with [Restoic] is teach our team mental skills that can help them overcome adversity,” Beurket said.

Brandon Sethi, teacher and coach for the MHS Football team, has seen mental health struggles among students before. Sethi said that Restoic allows for conversations about mental health to become more transparent, something he wished he had when he was younger. 

“In high school, I didn’t know what depression was [or how to] talk about it,” Sethi said. “I probably was depressed at that point, but because we didn’t talk about it, I didn’t know how to navigate [through] that.”

During his previous job at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Sethi worked with students who struggled with mental health and has seen the benefits of apps such as Restoic. Sethi said that he has seen these apps taking a more proactive approach towards addressing mental health.

“I think when you’re actively doing things that benefit your body, your mind, your soul, then it makes it a lot easier to keep stressors at bay,” Sethi said.

The stereotype around athletes and football players has stifled conversations about mental health in the past, but Junior Hanniel Rudrapati said that the app has allowed the team to open up.

“[The app] addresses some of the problems with mental health in sports,” Rudrapati said. “[And how] everybody is like ‘you have to be tough.’”

The team meets with their coaches during Connect Time on Wednesdays to discuss the app’s assignments and how they can set their mindsets for their best athletic performance. On September 21 during Connect, the team took time aside to implement Restoic’s 8-week program and discuss self-talk and competition mindsets. Sethi said he had seen the app’s effectiveness through the Connect sessions.

“We talk about self-talk and, going into the game, talk about visualization of [how] they’re going to feel their successes,” Sethi said. “I think it’s given more common language to these terms.”

Sethi hopes that the app will continue to be used for the team in the future and other student athletes will be able to benefit from it as well.

“There are some tough dudes in this room,” Sethi said. “For them to be able to calm their minds like that is a pretty powerful thing [the app] does for the athlete.”

Infographic by Alisha Verma