WHILE Greg Hire is committed to try and bring the Rockingham Flames their first ever Men’s SBL championship over the next six weeks, what’s making him even prouder with his involvement in the league is the commitment to raising awareness for mental health.
As impressive as Hire’s basketball career is which included his 243 NBL games and four championships at the Perth Wildcats, representing Australia in 3×3 competition and now playing 195 SBL matches including being a Grand Final MVP, what he’s done away from the court is even more impressive.
Through his work with Youth Focus and then establishing his own charity, A Stitch in Time, Hire has put an inordinate amount of time and effort into raising awareness for mental health and trying to make it more acceptable for people to come forward when they are struggling.
Not only that, but Hire has backed up his words by physically helping people himself and making visits right across the state where just his presence and showing that he cares, and helping people see that help is available has no doubt saved lives.
So that’s why when Hire committed to continuing playing in the SBL and doing it with the Rockingham Flames even after retiring from the NBL, he would only do so is his club and the league got behind mental health awareness in a big way.
The league has just hosted its Mental Health Awareness Round this past weekend but with the Flames not having a home game, their recognition of the occasion will take place this Friday night at Mike Barnett Sports Complex when they host the Lakeside Lightning.
The SBL has taken the lead on raising mental health awareness has a sporting league under the Basketball WA banner starting with the seminar held pre-season to now instituting the Mental Health Awareness Round.
But for Hire it’s important they are not just token gestures. It has to be done in a way that actually helps people and shows that support is there for anyone struggling in any sort of way for their mental health.
“It’s a huge thing and it’s a discussion we had in the off-season where one of our goals was to bring the captains, coaches and administrators into a room and to allow Chris Harris to talk to them,” Hire said.
“He is an unbelievable advocate with a wealth of knowledge in that mental health space so he got the chance to educate the group and we see in sport all the time, those captains and coaches are not only leaders, but they are admired by their peers and they can accept the responsibility that they can impact so many people’s lives, but save some people as well.
“So that was a goal and now with Mental Health Awareness Round, what I’ve been most proud of is that everyone in the league is embracing it. I’ve reached out to every single player from every single club, and the coaches and referees, to get a few words that we can use through our platform to spread the importance of mental health with their tips and insights around well-being.
“It was unbelievable that I sent out the message and half a dozen responded within an hour, and the rest had by that night. You are surprised by that passion and I know a lot of people are impacted in that space, but until you reach out you don’t know to what degree.
“It’s obviously really encouraging to see what can happen and BWA adopting this round really sees them take the lead in terms of state leagues across the country. It’s definitely something that we are doing and can see the importance of it.”
Hire has focused so much of his energy in such an inspirational way to helping to promote mental health awareness. But just saying that is easy.
In practice, what that actually means is providing people struggling who might see no hope or no way out and showing them that help is available to them.
That could help them get out of a dark place but in the bigger picture, it saves people’s lives and that’s why it’s so important to Hire and it’s not just some token charity work.
“The biggest thing is the education factor and a lot of people when they first come to me or anyone else for help, their very first question is how do they talk to someone,” Hire said.
“The only reason they feel that way is because they don’t feel confident in asking the right question and that’s because they don’t have the education in that space. In order for us to change that, if we can start to bring people together in a room or if they see something online even if it’s a simple mantra of listening without judging which is a huge quality that everyone can have.
“One thing that I reflect upon all the time is that when I play basketball, that was the one thing that remained constant in my life that I could come to training every single week where you can build that relationship with coaches and your peers.
“No one is going to open up to someone that they don’t trust and that’s what sport does, it establishes relationships and it establishes trust which is the biggest thing.
“The more and more that we can continue education individuals the more and more people will feel in reaching out or feeling confident enough to tell someone that they are struggling that they are struggling with a mental health condition and asking for help.”