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Depression, the Penguin & me – Workplace wellbeing in Sport

12 years in working in National Governing Bodies in sport can take it’s toll. You have limited resources to deliver increasingly challenging objectives, all the while being told by a veteran volunteer of 45years that ” You wouldn’t even fit in a canoe mate so don’t see why I should listen to you now!”.

That’s a true story by the way. I’ll save the context for the book and motion picture epic. To play me I’m thinking either Margot Robbie or Luke Evans, what do you think? Anyway, sorry, I digress. Depression & sport.

Recently I was asked by James Williams CEO of Welsh Athletics too present to his team on workplace wellbeing in sport. With my 12 years as an administrative professional and 20 years as a volunteer and participant, that coupled with my experiences through COVID and my mental health challenges, he thought it may land with some of his colleagues and perhaps reassure them that other people out there have tough times. I didn’t have anything prepared, but it was something i wanted to investigate. This gave me the budget to create ‘Depression, the penguin and me’.

Sport, in general, is a place where we don’t talk about what’s going on in our heads. The competitive nature both on the playing surface and off it, lends itself to a ‘suck it up’ attitude for fear of being seen as weak or losing your place in the side.

For me, I could’ve talked for hours. I felt it important to touch on my career highlights – Year 3 short tennis champion and under 11’s players player AND managers player of the year I thank you very much – but it was more about my experience working for 4 National Governing bodies, being fully operational during the COVID19 pandemic and the period I went through in summer 2021 when diagnosed with depression and severe anxiety.

I don’t see the point in hiding anything. What’s happened has happened and I feel that sport can and must wake up to the potential mental health crisis it is facing with those that run their governing bodies.

I really enjoyed the presentation. Selfishly. It was quite a cathartic process and I really hope that the experiences, albeit, my experiences, resonated with some people and they took away some reassurance and comfort in what they need and want to do for themselves.

I was beyond chuffed with some of the feedback from the team, and it has whet may appetite to roll it out further in the hope it will help more people to Speak Easy.

June 21st 2022 – Feedback the Welsh Athletics team: 

‘’Grabbed my attention from the start and didn’t let go, authentic reflections with humour and honesty that was gripping, brilliant’’.

‘’It was personal, relatable and light-hearted and I think this style of event suited our team ‘’

‘’Totally relatable scenarios around life moments that made me stop – and think long and hard about many things going on in my own life’’. 

‘’The weaving of a personal story around key points flowed well and the speakers delivery excellent. Elegant simples slides piqued my curiosity without distracting from the spoken story’’

‘’I liked the penguin. The story behind the gift, the act of kindness it represents and the significance of keeping these things close throughout life’s journey.’’

If you’d like to hear more, or discuss with Simon how we could support you and your team, please get in touch on

Follow us on @speakeasyclub1 on all your usual platforms.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Clubhouse

Simon & the Speakeasy Club team.