Photo: Ben Atiga, pictured third from the left, standing with Borders College staff and students.
Borders College Sport and Exercise department was delighted to recently welcome former All Black and Edinburgh Rugby player Ben Atiga to the Scottish Borders Campus to talk with students about mental health in Sport.
New Zealand-born Ben, who is half-Samoan and half-Tongan, spoke openly about some of the challenges he faced during his professional rugby career and in his personal life. The former Full-back, who was capped once for New Zealand, talked about his mental health battles, including a period of depression.
Speaking about his meteoric rise to fame, Ben said that he was so immersed in the professional scene he lost his identity and became distant from his friends and family. He encouraged the students to stay grounded in whatever sport they played.
Having retired in 2015 due to chronic knee and hip problems, Ben is now Player Development Manager for Edinburgh Rugby and set up the ‘Rugby for Life’ initiative there, a player support programme designed to work with players at whatever age, or stage, of their career.
“My focus now is on player wellbeing. When I sit down with professional players, my first question is about how they are managing things on a personal perspective. Their performance on the pitch comes second to that.”
Borders College Active Campus Coordinator, Eric Jones, commented:
“It was great to welcome Ben to the College. He was obviously a well-known player and he will be able to bring the conversation forward. He has been part of the professional set-up and so can speak about the pressures there, but a lot of it is relevant for our students and grassroots sport as well.”
The College would like to thank Ben for taking the time to visit and speak with the students about his experiences.