‘Vulnerability was seen as a weakness’ in sport

He wants to overcome the taboo of depression among athletes. Raphaël Poulain, present during the “Tomorrow sport” day, shared his experience on the subject of the mental and psychological difficulties of high-level sport. The former Stade Français player, who retired from the field at just 25, returned to his depression and his desire to help athletes in the same situation.

Franceinfo: sport: how do top athletes manage to put their misfortunes into words?

Raphael Poulain: It takes time, because there is the denial of vulnerability. We must take the time to reflect, to get to know each other, to learn from each other. And to accept this vulnerability, to accept to feel. If the athlete opens up to this, he humanizes a lot of things in performance, and this is also useful for the next generation, who perhaps needs this kind of thing, more “real” human adventure. , than medals or coke rails.

How were you supported during your injuries?

When I was injured, my physios were my psychologists. We weren’t talking about psychology in sport, we are just starting today to open the floodgates. And then there is this vulnerability that we did not accept. We weren’t weak, everything would be fine, we’d get back on track. At the time, rugby discovered itself as professional, it was very patriarchal, with balls, heart and muscles. Vulnerability was seen as a weakness. So I played this role of fellow, god of the stadium. You have to agree to desacralize all that, to fall very low, and to come back.

Is that why it’s so hard to find the words and talk about it, having been trained to hide this vulnerability?

We are conditioned, but it goes beyond sport. it touches on 2000 years of patriarchy. In sport, there is also the mythological side, maintained by athletes, the media, it is this aspect that makes the crowds dream. Except that when you scratch, behind, you are human like everyone else.

Depression is less and less taboo today, would you have liked to be able to talk about it more freely in your time?

I wanted to talk about it at my time, but the rugby union told me that I was ten years ahead, that the time was not yet ready for that. But today I have no regrets. If I’m not living all that I’ve been through, I’m not meeting my wife, I don’t have my burnout, and I’m not in front of you to talk about it today. We have to accept the moments that we have lived. I testify to this experience, what I understood, and if it speaks to some, we discuss it and we exchange.

From this experience you have drawn strength to pass on your story and help others, with your association, NeoHeros. What concrete actions do you want to take?

Of course, all that remains is to go out into the field to meet young people, everyone, and talk about it. I have a documentary project, testimonial video capsules. I will create an application where athletes can come to be followed if they feel the need, with psychologists, coaches, addictologists. Then I will open a “buffer place” in the South of France to help athletes who need it. But the priority is above all prevention because we are on a subject that is still quite taboo. We humanize the subject, and when they feel this need they can come, they will know these solutions

Source: www.francetvinfo.fr

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