By Dr Bunmi Aboaba, The Sober Advantage
We’re all aware of the big-name footballers that have had high profile battles with alcohol problems but did you know Pro footballers are more than three times more likely to develop a drinking addiction than others? But why is that? And what actions can footballers and their support network take?
Here’s a few reasons why addiction seems to prey on professional footballers and how to tackle it head on...
Alcohol seems to be everywhere
Does your socialising revolve around beer and shots? Champagne and the best vodka money can buy? Can you think of a time when you’re not offered a drink? If you find yourself on the constantly drunk then you might have a problem. It might be due to the fact if you’re constantly exposed to alcohol - which isn’t entirely your fault.
Surely that isn’t the case for the highest paid footballers in the UK? Yep - they’re just as likely to develop a drinking problem as much as the casual Saturday 5-a-side footie players. Just because you might be splashing out on champagne at a high-end nightclub and not pounding down the pints at their local, it doesn’t mean you’re immune from addiction.
Big bucks , boredom and fame
So, he’s made it to the top. He’s playing for the team he may have supported as a kid. His salary is bigger than anything he ever dreamed of. He’s young and famous and his whole life is exposed to the media. With less money worries, people might be more likely to splash the cash on drink whether that’s a luxury bottle of whiskey to drink at home alone or lavish cocktails at a favourite bar. Some footballers choose to live the ‘rock-and-roll’ lifestyle while others lead a straight-edge life. Of course, this is up to the individual, but it’s one of the biggest reasons alcohol addiction is more common among pro footballers.
Footballers come with contracts - you know that... you’ve probably had a few contracts yourself. But with football contracts come life-changing moves to different cities, counties and even countries. When your contract is due to end and won’t be renewed, you’re free to sign for another club, so you could end up moving anywhere. That’s why football as a career comes with a truckload of job insecurity and feeling the pressure to perform well. Footballers are, essentially, more prone to work-related stress, which brings me to my next point...
Performance stress and anxiety
Some stress can be good for you. But sometimes the stress can rev out of control, so people turn to drink to help themselves cope. Some stress, anxiety and panic attack triggers for footballers might include being under pressure by fans to always perform perfectly, feeling under pressure when your team is winning... and more when you’re losing, worrying about losing your contract due to performance issues and even pressure from the sports media.
Wycombe Wanderers striker Adebayo Akinfenwa said, “Football at a high-performance level is demanding physically and has all the facilities and structures in place to achieve peak fitness. But what is not being looked after so much is the mental health side of the game. I have seen close friends in the sport suffer with such issues leading to addiction in one form or other.”
My advice on footballers with drinking issues:
- Talk to someone: This is the very first, and sometimes biggest, step. By confiding in someone you trust you let go of a big weight. This could be a friend or family member.
- Support systems set in place. Where early signs of addiction can be spotted, and stopped.
- Education and coping strategies and mechanisms from the minute the young player is signed up. Regular check-ins with a team therapist.
- Sober coaching. Assign a coach to the player at risk. Highly-effective and confidential and works around the players schedule.
- Hopefully the team has a support system in place and can spot the signs early in the player.
- A 12-step program exists in Alcohol, narcotics and Gamblers Anonymous but to name a few
- Seek holistic therapies: A sports therapist / physiotherapist might already offer things like sports massage, acupuncture and aromatherapy. But you can go one further and add complementary therapies into the mix such as Reiki and energy healing. They have been known to greatly reduce stress and anxiety, leading to better performance and more self-confidence!
- Take up meditation: There are loads of apps for this... and it’s also a good opportunity to practice mindfulness.
- Energy medicine techniques to stay focused, grounded and calm.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Bunmi Aboaba a Sobriety Companion and Coach and founder of the Sober Advantage. Bunmi is dedicated to helping professionals overcome drinking problems. Her combination of holistic therapies is used to prepare a bespoke plan designed to fit around busy schedules. Bunmi helps people battling a variety of addictions to get control of their lives and beat their addiction – for good. Bunmi uses a variety of techniques to help her clients, all of which she has used herself to help her gain her sobriety and remain sober for 10 years. See: www.thesoberadvantage.com and https://www.linkedin.com/in/bunmiaboaba/