Tennis Canada is thrilled to announce that Beneva, the largest mutual insurance company in Canada, is now the lead supporter of its game-changing mental health program. The Mental Timeout initiative supported by Beneva will build on Tennis Canada’s mission to improve the wellbeing of all tennis players across Canada and to ensure a safe and inclusive environment for all those who pick up a racquet. As it enters its second year, the project will aim to solidify Tennis Canada’s commitment as an institution toward the future of the sport and to build on the success of the program in 2022.
The project will take shape based on two commitments: A commitment that Tennis Canada makes as an institution towards the future of the sport, and a commitment that Tennis Canada seeks from everyone towards tennis in Canada, both on-site at events and on social media, where tennis players, in particular, have become a target for disgruntled fans. By supporting Mental Timeout, Beneva is pleased to be able to contribute to improving the well-being of all individuals in the sports community and to be an agent of change.
Mental Timeout is not a quick fix to answering all the problems concerning players and their mental health. It is the beginning of a long and important journey that displays a willingness to ask questions, find solutions and create a safe and inclusive environment where everyone performs their best.
MENTAL TIMEOUT AS AMBASSADORS
The Mental Timeout initiative supported by Beneva will count on three incredible ambassadors in 2023: 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, 2022 Davis Cup winner Alexis Galarneau, and Canada’s top-ranked wheelchair player Rob Shaw.
Bianca Andreescu rose to prominence on the WTA Tour in 2019 when she captured three prestigious titles at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, the National Bank Open presented by Rogers in Toronto, and the U.S. Open in New York, becoming the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam singles titles after defeating Serena Williams in the championship final. Her remarkable season not only propelled her to no. 4 on the WTA rankings, but it also earned her the Northern Star Award which is presented annually to Canada’s top athlete.
The 22-year-old has been open about her own mental health journey with the hope that she can help break the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
“I’d like to inspire the next generation to have a different perspective on mental health issues and learn that it’s okay to seek guidance or professional help in this area. It feels good to be open and honest with everyone about what I’m going through rather than internalizing all of it. I hope I can inspire others to do the same. Remember, at the end of the day, it is just a game, and we should all want to become the best versions of ourselves both on and off the court!”
Alexis Galarneau was a member of Team Canada presented by Sobeys when the squad won Canada’s first Davis Cup title in 2022 and achieved a career-high ATP ranking of No. 204 around the same time. He also enjoyed a successful summer hard court summer on Canadian soil last year, reaching his first ATP Challenger final in Winnipeg and making his ATP Masters 1000 debut at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers in Montreal. Before turning pro, Galarneau played NCAA tennis at North Carolina State University.
“It is essential to be in a good mental state to be able to perform at our best! I believe that this initiative will encourage athletes to ask for the necessary help so that we all feel better equipped when facing a difficult moment or period. I hope to help young people realize that stress and anxiety are normal states of being, and I hope to communicate my own experiences in the best way possible and be an example for athletes!”
Rob Shaw finished the 2023 season ranked No. 7 in the ITF wheelchair quad singles rankings thanks to a tally of six titles. Since 2015, he has won an impressive total of 15 singles trophies on the ITF Circuit. He also competed in the wheelchair tennis events at the 2023 Australian Open and the U.S. Open in 2022. In 2019, Shaw won the gold in the quad category at the 2019 Parapan American Games, defeating then World No. 1 David Wagner for the first time en route to the top of the podium.
Being on tour professionally for the past seven years opened Shaw’s eyes to the challenges that athletes face on a day-to-day basis and inspired him to become an ambassador of the Mental Timeout initiative.
“There is so much emphasis placed on skill development, strength and conditioning, that we often forget to take time to ensure that we are in a positive mental health space while training and competing. Athletes shouldn’t feel like they have to sacrifice their overall well-being and quality of life simply to achieve athletic goals. I hope to encourage more athletes to reach out for support when they need it. I also hope to educate athletes at all stages of development about the resources available to them. It’s my hope that by educating athletes and empowering them with options that they will feel comfortable addressing their mental health challenges before they become issues.”
MENTAL TIMEOUT AT THE NATIONAL BANK OPEN
The Mental Timeout initiative supported by Beneva was once again front and center at the 2023 National Bank Open presented by Rogers in Montreal and Toronto.
Positive Court Pledge – A commitment by all
National Bank Open ticket buyers, tournament staff, volunteers, media and players, as well as those following on social media around the world, were invited to sign The Positive Court Pledge – a written commitment to ensure a positive environment for all athletes performing in Canada, making them feel supported and uplifted. This pledge is a way to promote a safe environment, but also to break the taboo and open a discussion about the importance of mental health in sports. Tennis Canada has begun in earnest to extend the reach of the Positive Court Pledge to events of all ages and categories across the country.
Iga Swiatek and Mental Timeout ambassador Alexis Galarneau were among those who signed the pledge this year.
DOG THERAPY AND YOGA
In addition to offering the players in both cities multiple ways to take care of their mental health during the tournament, fans on-site could also put their mental well-being first by enjoying dog therapy and yoga sessions during Family Weekend.
In Montreal, Mental Timeout ambassador Bianca Andreescu took part in a yoga session and Donna Vekic brought her dog Mali along to meet the kids anxiously waiting to greet them.
In Toronto, Galarneau also showed off his flexibility during yoga while Alejandro Davidovich Fokina made some new furry friends during his dog therapy session.
Fans had the opportunity to write messages of encouragement and inspiration to their favourite players on a positivity postcard. Needless to say, the kind words were very well-received.
“It’s great to know all the love from the people. I read the messages that they write me on social media as well, in every platform and, of course, in the cards as well,” Carlos Alcaraz said. “Every day that I get into the locker room, I saw the cards,. And for me, it’s great to read it and know all the love that they have [for] me.”
Mental Timeout Playlists – Songs to calm your mind
The first initiative ahead of the 2023 National Bank Open is the Mental Timeout Playlists created by Mental Timeout ambassadors Bianca Andreescu, Alexis Galarneau, and Rob Shaw. Over the next few months, Tennis Canada will be unveiling the ambassadors’ favourite songs to listen to when in need of calming their minds.
- Rob Shaw’s playlist – LISTEN NOW
- Alexis Galarneau’s playlist – LISTEN NOW
- Bianca Andreescu’s playlist – LISTEN NOW
Tennis Canada will also be creating a fan-made Mental Timeout Playlist and needs your help!
A LONG-TERM VISION
The future potential of Mental Timeout is vast as the conversation around mental health continues to evolve and develop It will take time but Tennis Canada is committed to being a leading voice for mental wellness in sport and see our initial announcement of this project as the first stepping stone to many other courses of action and positive change towards a safe and inclusive tennis environment.
As part of its commitment to Mental Timeout, Tennis Canada has engaged with several partners including Gameplan, the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium and the University of Ottawa to provide the following services in the shorter term, and to build a long-term, sustainable Tennis Canada Mental Health Strategy:
1. Intervention Services
2. Education & Support for:
- National Training Centre/Regional Training centres athletes & coaches
- Junior players participating in the Junior National championships
These partners will be key in developing a tangible, long-term strategy. Tennis Canada’s broader long-term goals include prioritizing key strategies and focus areas as well as maximizing people, resources and being very nimble with our abilities to adjust and adapt to the ever-changing nature of our sport while staying true to our development system and principles. The Mental Timeout initiative will also support our broader safe sport strategy.