Photo Tennis Canada

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month and what better way to recognize it than to highlight seven pioneering initiatives spearheaded by Tennis Canada.

Here are seven ways Tennis Canada is prioritizing mental health and embracing its mission to improve the wellbeing of tennis players across Canada.

1. Mental Health Strategy

Earlier this year, Tennis Canada officially partnered with the University of Ottawa, Own the Podium, the Canadian Centre for Mental Health and Sport, and Game Plan, to implement a long-term strategy for its athletes, coaches, parents, and staff.

Tennis Canada is the first National Sport Organization to unveil a strategy based on the National Mental Health Strategy for High Performance Sport in Canada.

Serena Williams makes the MTO sign alongside ballkids at the 2022 NBO

What better way to uplift someone’s day than to hand deliver them a postcard? Positivity postcards were one of several initiatives that landed on the grounds of the National Bank Open as part of the Mental Timeout initiative supported by Beneva in 2022.

Fans have the opportunity to connect with their favourite players by writing a heartfelt message or even simple words of encouragement, which tournament staff deliver to the locker room.

Veteran Andy Murray, who has revealed this season to be his last on tour, also received many positive messages of support in 2022. Meanwhile, Paula Badosa penned a message to her best friend on tour, Aryna Sabalenka

3. Positive Court Pledge

Another initiative found at the National Bank Open is the Positive Court Pledge. The Pledge is a written promise to create a supportive, safe and nurturing environment.

It’s for everyone involved in the world of tennis: those who set foot in a stadium, watch matches at home or interact with athletes online.

The Pledge is also intended for tennis associations, staff members, media, volunteers and many others.

Sign the pledge here: Positive Court Pledge

Pascal Ratthe/Tennis Canada

4. Player Ambassadors

Tennis Canada is proudly welcoming back Canadian tennis stars Bianca Andreescu, Alexis Galarneau, and Rob Shaw as official ambassadors of the Mental Timeout initiative supported by Beneva.

Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion and former world number four, has spoken openly about the importance of mental health in performance, and prioritizing self care. She’s also a major advocate of meditation.

The 23-year-old is currently planning her return to action this season.

In the meantime, Quebec’s Alexis Galarneau is also returning to back the initiative. The 25-year-old recently achieved a new career high ranking of 160 in the world and has reached four ATP Challenger finals in his career. He also won his first career Challenger last summer in Granby.

“Raising awareness for mental health in tennis is something that’s very close to my heart,” said Galarneau.

“By working together, we can continue to break down the stigmas supporting mental health in our sport.”

Canadian wheelchair tennis star Rob Shaw is proudly returning as a player ambassador. The wheelchair quad athlete is currently ranking ninth in the world, and recently won the 25th ITF title of his career.

Read more: Monday Digest – Shaw scores big in Japan

5. The Player Relaxation Zone

Another addition to the player offerings on site at the National Bank Open is the Player Relaxation Zone, a quiet and serene space found on the tournament site that is a strictly player-only area.

The world’s best players can make use of the space by winding down for a nap, meditating, or taking some time away to focus their mind ahead of their matches.

Diffusors, weighted blankets, massage guns, noise cancelling headphones, and eye-masks are all accessible in the lounge for players.

2023 NBO finalist Alex de Minaur spoke of using the relaxation zone daily during his tournament run for a nap, to refresh and recharge.

6. New Wellness Director

Tennis Canada took an important step last May, appointing Marie-Josée Bellemare as its Wellness Director. In this newly created role, Bellemare works closely with athletes, coaches, parents, and staff to provide wellness and lifestyle support while helping implement the wider mental health strategy.

She is also helping to implement a sustainable wellness strategy centred around three main pillars: Promote, Support, and Care.

7. Yoga for Fans

As part of its Mental Timeout initiative, the National Bank Open also offers yoga… for its fans!

Even Canadian Bianca Jolie Fernandez joined fans to partake in some cat cow and downward dog poses on the mat.

The benefits of yoga are well documented. It’s not only great for improving strength and flexibility, its also a proven tool to relieve stress, anxiety, and boost our overall mental health and well being.