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 Sacramento Republic FC

Phillips Shares his Experience, Leads Mental Health Discussion for Inderkum Students

May 14, 2024 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
Sacramento Republic FC News Release

On Monday, Republic FC hosted an intimate opportunity for soccer players at Inderkum High School to discuss the pressures and challenges they face on and off the field. The conversation was led by Dr. Mondo Gonzalez and Republic FC forward Kieran Phillips, who discussed the importance of destigmatizing mental health concerns - especially among athletes - and best practices for prioritizing mental health for one's self and teammates to reach peak athletic performance.

"Days like to today are an opportunity for us to create awareness around mental health struggles, and also create hope," said Dr. Gonzalez at the event. "Saying that there is another side to this, and there is help out there that we've never had before is the exciting thing for all young athletes."

Dr. Mondo is a nationally recognized performance coach and psychologist who has designed mental health programs that engage elite athletes - including Chicharito, Mallory Swanson, and Lindsey Vonn - to improve their mental strength. His work has focused on reducing stress and addressing trauma, in addition to empowering individuals to seek assistance and promote open discussions about mental challenges. In teaming up with Republic FC, he wants to bring these practices directly into the hands of young athletes.

"Athletes can be seen as super-human sometimes mentally, as things that can't be touched", acknowledged Phillips. "But people forget sometimes we're all just human beings with our feelings and emotions. It's just about how you use them and process them to put into a positive outlook as opposed to negative."

Phillips joined Republic FC in April from English club Huddersfield Town and has been an advocate for destigmatizing Mental Health discussions. From a young age, he recognized the importance of seeking resources to assist with the challenges he experienced as a young athlete - recovering from multiple serious injuries to return to the pitch, extended periods of time away from home as a young player, and more recently, moving to the United States for the first time to join Republic FC. The Huddersfield-born striker is off to a strong start with Sacramento, scoring three goals in his first four games.

"I think what Kieran did today is give permission to these student athletes to not just be warriors on the field, but also be multi-dimensional humans that struggle at times, with isolation, loneliness, depression, the psychological impact coming back from an injury," Dr. Gonzalez continued. "Their experience is real. And that the good news is that we're living in a world that is open to validating their experience."

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 6 young people aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year. When it comes to student athletes, research shows an increased prevalence of stress due to sports. A 2023 study surveyed 200 student athletes aged 16 and 17 representing a variety of sports and locations and found that over 90% of the cohort experienced some level of stress due to their participation in sports, with the most common stressors being fear of failure and self-pressure.

Republic FC and Dr. Mondo plan to build on this week's conversation with the Inderkum soccer teams. Preparations are underway to host a larger event as students return to school this Fall, with a wider audience, additional guest speakers, and more resources and partners to provide a safe and accepting space for attendees to engage with each other and experts in the field of mental health.

The club continues to share a crucial mental health resource on all of its kits: a 988 patch to drive awareness for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. A limited-edition t-shirt and sticker pack are also available in the Team Store, encouraging fans to use the phrase "Let's Kick It" to reach out to their friends and family during Mental Health Awareness Month. A portion of proceeds will benefit Sacramento-based non-profit WellSpace Health, which operates the second-largest 988 Crisis Center I California.

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