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Hosted at UCEN Manchester at their City Campus Manchester and delivered by the higher education organisation’s expert tutors and trainers, the event featured a series of workshops, presentations and other activities designed to give club staff access to the knowledge and skills needed in their important roles.
Every Super League club and some Championship clubs have a dedicated player welfare manager in post to support players across a wide range of issues, from health and wellbeing, careers advice and development, and counselling.
The player welfare managers work closely with the RL Cares welfare team headed by director Steve McCormack, who said the event was a huge success.
“It was a very thought-provoking couple of days and I would like to thank the staff at UCEN Manchester for delivering such a high quality and varied programme of events,” said McCormack.
“All the player welfare managers who attended deserve a lot of credit for grasping the importance of their CPD and the role the play in keeping players well, safe and successful.
“I am 100 per cent sure that everyone who attended will go back to their clubs and be able to better facilitate discussions around wellbeing with the players and colleagues they work with on a daily basis.
“The event demonstrates RL Cares’s commitment to upskilling our stakeholders on all aspects of whole-person wellbeing.”
Steve Hardisty, the Wellbeing and Projects Manager at RL Cares, said: “Being part of this holistic professional development event over both days was a really worthwhile experience. We covered a range of areas, from UCAS to funding structures of higher and further education, some work around CV building and help to develop peer to peer learning.
“In addition to the CPD days, UCEN Manchester is running a bespoke counselling course for the RFL. This is a wonderful opportunity. Our welfare managers are the gatekeepers to the clubs and upskilling them is invaluable. This is going to be an exciting partnership.”
The role of player welfare manager centres on relationships with people: they need to have a minimum Level 3 qualification in Counselling Skills. UCEN Manchester has developed a bespoke training programme for the RFL, and a number of the welfare managers are currently working towards the qualification with UCEN Manchester.
Former Wigan and Hull forward Feka Paleaaesina, who is now the Welfare Manager at Hull, is currently studying the Level 3 Counselling course and attended the two-day CPD event.
He said: “I finished playing in 2017 and was lucky to transition straight into this role. I’ve really enjoyed the sessions and took a lot from the tutors. It’s helped me to gain more understanding of the role. It benefits us and so ultimately benefits the player.”
Tom Fitzpatrick, Welfare and Education Manager at Wigan Warriors attended both CPD days and is already seeing the benefits. He said: “It’s been brilliant, the presenters are very knowledgeable. After the first day I went back and shared what I’d learnt with the other staff at the club.
“The sessions provoked conversation with everyone in the room, we’ve been sharing ideas. It’s made me reflect on my practice and impacted my delivery – and reassured me I’m doing the right thing.”
Mark Harris, Associate Dean, UCEN Manchester, said: “We’re excited to be working with the team at Rugby League Cares and the wider rugby league community to support them with the fantastic work they are doing around player welfare.
“The bespoke CPD professional development event for their welfare managers is all about enabling them to see how they can best support their players in and around careers, welfare, education and advice and guidance. This is just the start of our partnership, and we look forward to seeing what we can do together.”
The player welfare managers attended both physically and virtually, including Catalans Dragons and Toulouse Olympique who dialled in to the event.
Across the two days, the attendees looked at the important differences between a coach and mentor; considered how to facilitate discussions around personal values; took part in a debate about healthy masculinity and breaking down stereotypes in the workplace; and completed modules on counselling skills and personal and professional relationships.
The event also featured a theatre workshop about contemporary issues such as toxic masculinity and how to challenge stereotypical views of women delivered by alumni of the Arden School of Theatre at UCEN Manchester.
RL Cares is providing further education and CPD opportunities for the player welfare managers in 2023, details of which will be circulated over the coming months.