"We need to change the culture of this topic and make it OK to talk about mental health and suicide" Paul Highton, Former Salford Red Devils player

Professional sports coaches often speak about mental fitness being more important than physical preparation.

A new partnership between Salford Red Devils Foundation, State of Mind & Rugby League Cares will give local men the opportunity to go behind the scenes of the greatest game in the world, learn the mental fitness techniques of professional players and be supported to develop their own winning mindset.

Offload is a 10-fixture season at the A J Bell stadium where men will join forces with Rugby League players, past and present, to understand the challenges of the game. The ability to deal with injury, moving to a new club, tactical changes, retirement and new careers beyond the game will be discussed along with a player’s ability to juggle the everyday demands of life (e.g. relationships, mortgages) whilst performing at the top level.

Men will also be given exclusive access to the Club with extra opportunities to get involved in the Foundations sport, heritage, health and education activities alongside the Offload fixtures. >


What we want to achieve

Offload is a men’s mental fitness programme being piloted in three Rugby League communities; Salford, Warrington and Widnes. Through a 10-fixture programme Offload aims to build resilience, develop coping strategies, build social support networks and enable men to access further support where needed.


Who is eligible

Men, at risk of, or with low to moderate mental health problems.

Men, particularly men in areas of deprivation, remain less likely to attend their GP, engage in a NHS Health Check, opt for bowel cancer screening, visit a pharmacy or speak up when they’re finding things touch. Four in five suicides are male, but only a minority of those men have previously engaged with mental health services;

We know that these men present within our Rugby League community and have a strong affiliation to the game. Research shows men are interested in their health and do engage in initiatives when they are presented to them in the right way, including in sports stadiums (e.g. Football Fans in Training, Fit to Tackle). Offload will use rugby terminology, the clubs brand and players to encourage men to turn up to ‘Offload’ fixtures.


How it works

Offload will be delivered by Foundation health managers and past and current players who have faced mental health challenges.

Fixtures will look at the challenges players face on and off the pitch and what evidence based coping strategies they use. Attendees will learn to use those evidence-based techniques in their own lives. Fixtures will be delivered from stadiums so attendees feel inducted into the club. 


What sessions look like

Each of the 10 fixtures are split into two halves. The first half is a creative mental fitness coaching session. Example topics include resilience, stress management, goal setting, solution focused problem solving, mindfulness, work life balance, breathing & relaxation, challenging negative thinking, developing strong teams. The second half will be co-produced club based activity, e.g. physical activity, heritage tours, volunteering, leadership qualifications. .


Sustainability in communities

We will complement existing provision and ensure clear cross-referral pathways. Offload will work with other providers to ensure a joined-up, integrated approach.

Rugby League Cares, Community Fund

For more information on how to get involved please contact Joanne on 0161 631 5252 or