Almost 4 Years…

To celebrate the launch of the new Outside The Locker Room website I wanted to sit down and take the time to reflect on almost four years since I began this journey.

I can remember sitting down one day at a café in Docklands with a notebook and a pen trying to come up with a name. In front of me I literally had about 20 different titles before I finally hit the nail on the head ‘Outside The Locker Room’ (OTLR). Straight away I felt a sense of relief and belonging. The name sat immediately well with me as I could almost instantly envisage just what it would look like.

One thing my AFL career taught me was the importance of hard work, commitment, dedication and sacrifice. Most athletes have the ability to have laser like focus and can make things come to life really quick.  Once I found my purpose in OTLR it actually grew quite rapidly. There were two things that I knew I wanted it all to represent. Number one was that we needed to offer on going support to individuals and their families. I had identified that I didn’t want to just become another mental health story or program. I wanted it to be more. Secondly, I wanted a legacy. I wanted one day to look back when I am older and tell my children that your father did that.

The greatest challenge that I had at this point in time was my little knowledge of running such a program and I didn’t have people around me like I do today who guide, mentor and support me. In fact, my so-called friend who I had been working with up to this point had just quit and wanted to go down another path. So I was in fact, by myself.

Every morning I would wake up and question myself and everything I was doing. I certainly did not have any security with my career and at times, like most, I would have doubt. I can remember one technique I used to do every morning to help keep me going and that was to surround myself with positive psychology. One of the lessons that my psychiatrist had taught me was the ability as people we have to select our environments and control what we can within them. So learning this I would download audio files from the internet of a motivational speaker by the name of Eric Thomas. Every morning when I was getting ready I would have these audio files playing in the background. Than I would plug my phone in to my car and listen to them all the way to work. It just helped. It helped me stay focused. It gave me motivation. It encouraged me to bloke out all other people’s opinions and keep going with OTLR.

I look back now on that first year of the program and feel extremely humbled and grounded. We had nothing like we do today. The first 12 months we worked with about 15 sporting clubs across country Victoria. Everywhere from Bendigo to Shepparton, than back to Echuca. My weeks would literally be myself driving up and back on the Hume Hwy doing over 1,000 kms a week to deliver our program. I would leave my apartment in Port Melbourne at about 3:00pm and I wouldn’t get home until about 1:00am that night. But I loved it. I was finally living my dream and genuinely felt like I had found my purpose.

I am so happy that I stuck to my gut and kept fighting for what I knew was needed in community sport. There were times when I did think I was banging my head up against the wall and there was no one supporting me. But I just kept going. I kept driving. I kept showing up. I kept sticking around until 11pm at night after a session talking to a young man who in the country has no one to talk to about his feelings and why he felt depressed and suicidal. This is what drove me to never ever quit on these young adults.

If you take a look at our program today and think that it just happened over night than you would be very wrong. I think most people had seen us featured on 60 Minutes last year and thought that we were a new initiative but that wasn’t the truth. For every success that we have today from corporate partners, our team members and ambassadors there have been many more people say “no”, “not right now” or my favourite “maybe next year”.

I have never allowed my knock backs to define the important work that OTLR now represents in the community. With over 5,000 current active participants and a direct community positive impact of almost 60,000 people across Australia our program has only been defined by the great team that we have behind our mission and vision.

The last 12 months we have worked with over 100 sporting clubs, 50 schools and have engaged with over 20 corporate partners for the own employee wellbeing practices.

If you are reading this and you an idea you want to start. Or perhaps you have a dream job or career. My advice is to just get started. If you are passionate than showing up becomes easy. If you are true to yourself than finding a way becomes the only option. If I had of given up on my dream 3 years ago I would not have been able to save almost 600 lives through our program and I am sure there are many more that we just do not know about.

OTLR is just getting started and we have new innovative ideas coming to life that will change the way our community is educated and supported with mental health.

Jake Edwards  |  CEO  | Outside The Locker Room