Ahead of the Premier League’s Heads Up weekend, we spent time behind the scenes at our academy, to gain an insight into the Arsenal Academy Island, an innovative tool that was created by our staff and players to encourage an open conversation around mental health and wellbeing.
Academy Island is a concept that represents the journey of a young player. It has been used to help better understand and support the players’ journeys by the players themselves, parents, coaches, support staff, scouts and agents. It provides an opportunity to create a common language and promotes a conversation about challenges, opportunities and transitions.
It normalises the conversation around mental wellbeing. There are positive and negative parts of the island, but along with wider support, players can identify where they are on the island, and can use the tool to help them develop. It can also be used to review games, life outside of football, periods of time and elicit feedback from peers and staff to help with otherwise difficult conversations.
Academy Manager, Per Mertesacker said: “From the moment that a young player registers or signs for us, they become part of the Arsenal family. We not only provide coaching on the pitch, but we ensure that support behind the scenes helps players settle into life at the club and the expectations.
"There is a very clear understanding about the fact that life in general, as well as a career in professional football, can be challenging, and we try to provide an equally caring and challenging environment that gives an appreciation and support system to help individuals not just survive, but thrive in any situation that life or football may throw at them.
"We believe that everyone should strive to be the best version of themselves every day, and every choice, behaviour and day matters. Every Arsenal Academy player is expected to make the best choices for their development and health, both physically and mentally, with a variety of programmes to proactively support them with this.”
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