WHEN Andre Williams, co-founder of Performance Brothers stepped out in front of several parents, guardians and young sportsmen and women last Saturday at the Gymnasium in Queen’s Royal College (QRC), he had one goal in mind – to promote a wellness and performance culture in TT and the wider Caribbean.
The three-hour session that followed, a mental wellness workshop for young athletes and their families, proved to be more than useful to the parents, guardians and children at the session, all of whom were faced with the arduous task of juggling education and sport.
“In this particular workshop that we started, we recognised that the change really needed to start at home. So we needed to have the parents and the kids,” Williams said. “The parents have the most critical role in a child’s development, and those are the people who have the least amount of support. At some point in time, if you continue to do well at your job, your boss may invest in you – he may send you to a programme, or teach you something digital – but that never happens to a parent. So if a parent has a child and they are not prepared, what we get a lot is that the parent doesn’t even know if they are doing the right thing,” he continued.
Williams told Newsday the programme broached several topics vital for the holistic growth for any teenager, let alone those who also have to face the added pressure of performing in the sporting arena.
Some of the topics that were discussed included sleep, parenting styles, self-awareness, social identity and athletic identity. Williams said Saturday’s session was tailor-made to focus on issues that would affect student-athletes. He said in order to have a well-rounded child, particularly one who has to deal with the pressures of being an athlete, understanding their psychology helps tremendously.
“Being a student-athlete, we try to get a little more niche,” Williams said. “We work with a lot of kids who have gotten into sports and are working on national teams and getting scholarships – who take the sporting discipline as more than just a hobby. From our standpoint, our experience, a big part of that wellness and performance training is the psychology part of it. We have a lot of young kids now who are not quite sure what direction to go in and how to figure it out. We try to provide that kind of road map.”
On Saturday, several young athletes came with their relatives to listen to the programme. Newsday was told young taekwondo stars, track and field athletes, and even Olympians came with their parents and relatives to listen to the seminar.
Williams said the feedback was tremendous as parents and guardians expressed they better understood their roles in assisting their children achieve their dreams.
“The feedback is always that of gratitude,” Williams said. "People would approach me and say, 'We need to hear this. Our family needs to hear this. I’m glad we came as a family and we heard this together. Our family needs healing, our family needs wellness.'
"What we ask for in return is an affirmation. What we want to know is that now that you’ve had this experience today, how would you move forward? We talk a lot about a mindset shift to mental wellness. What affirmations would you use to get through challenges? What is your vision, and what is your own family’s mission statement? Much like a business, you now have to pass those on to your kids and work and journey with them to where they want to get to. Especially with student-athletes.”
The session on Saturday was the latest step in a journey which started about five years ago for Williams and Performance Brothers. He said when the organisation first started off, the people involved mostly worked on their own and supported each other when they could.
Williams said he began teaching modules to a local Premier League cricket team who began to see positive changes.
“ A lot of the programmes we focused on were simple things like focus and distraction,” Williams said.
He said their group has recognised the need for a culture of mental wellness and performance in TT.
“Times are changing and the struggle is now to keep up with the times. If you take a look at Trinidad alone, there was an article in the paper which said the government needs to put things in place because of the stress levels in the country. There are lay-offs and unemployment, the economy is soft, flooding and damage to your property, high crime; we have a lot of socio-economic issues that we have never had before. Focusing on mental health is becoming more common. We need to now have a whole mindset change to what is important to us, what we should focus on and what makes us happy. We are really starting this movement so that we could break a chain of many things that we are seeing, whether it be crime or delinquency or other social ills.” Williams said.
While a large percentage of their client base are schools, student-athletes and parents, Williams said the organisation does a lot of sessions with corporate entities as well. He added that he also utilises the modules he teaches in his own life when dealing with his kids, and working on becoming more self-aware and well-rounded.
“At the end of the day, that is what we really want to get to, because it is a lifestyle change. If I talk about meditation, it is because I do it in the morning. If I talk about having a proper diet, it is because I am trying to do it as well. I am always trying to get my daughter to eat her greens. We always talk about communicating and compromising. When my daughter doesn’t get what she wants she likes to fuss and whine. We have to take time outs and talk and say lets co-operate, then we come to a decision that we are both happy with.” Williams said. “And you would be surprised to know that we have now changed our mindset in our relationship, where we have increased communication.”
Williams said his next workshop would be on men’s health. He said he would be inviting men and their families.