OHL partners with HONE Athletics to improve player well-being

As part of a mental-health initiative, all players in the Ontario Hockey League now complete weekly anonymous surveys regarding their mental health and well-being.

It's done through the HONE Athletics app created by two sports physiotherapists to help athletes who may be struggling. It also aims to give coaches the tools they need to be able to read the dressing room.

“Our app is saying let's address this issue from a cultural perspective,” said Jessica Renney, HONE co-founder.

"Let's make sure that we’re providing the environment that is needed for these individuals to really succeed and flourish. And I think that’s a different approach – it's an athlete-specific approach.”

Athletes are asked about overall well-being, criticism, fatigue, relationships, feeling of disconnection, pressure and time constraints. While OHL teams have only been using it for a month, officials said teams have made their mental well-being a key priority.

“It's still pretty fresh using this app, so I think we’re all getting adjusted to it,” said Ryan Oulahen, head coach of the North Bay Battalion.

"What I will say is us as a team has put a big priority on this, bringing on Mark Bruner (as our) our mental performance coach. We actually have the privilege to work with him on a daily basis, which is absolutely crucial and now he’s been able to incorporate the HONE app in things he’s already doing."

Oulahen said some players are doing daily evaluations, giving the coaches an idea of how they are coping.

The OHL is the first league to implement HONE and officials say it complements the OHL Talk today program, which has provided safe talk mental health training to more than 1,600 players, coaches, staff and billets since 2014.

“It's good to have these conversations,” said Kyle Pereira, the OHL's director of player recruitment.

"It continues to open … lines of communications and it's so important and there’s been a lot of progress in this area certainly over the years. Frankly, there’s a lot of progress still to come (and) it's nice to see organizations in sport and otherwise continuing to try push boundaries and challenge themselves to improve offerings."