When their heroes speak, students listen, and for a rugby league town like Tully, there’s nobody more influential than the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys.
It’s no surprise then, that a visit from former Cowboys Gavin Cooper and Ray Thompson to deliver The Resilience Project to year 9 students at Tully State High School had such an influence.
Split into boys and girls, the two groups heard from Gavin about his career as a professional athlete in the NRL and how he used the three pillars of The Resilience Project, gratitude, empathy and mindfulness, to navigate some of the trickier times in his playing career.
Attracting students from Cardwell up to the Innisfail catchment area, including Indigenous communities, Tully State High educates students from a wide range of backgrounds.
Year 9 level coordinator James Brennan said this presents some challenges for the group, but the cut-through that their Cowboys idols achieve does not discriminate.
“I can hold the students’ attention and get as much to them as I can, but having someone instantly recognisable and someone they instantly look up to, because they all play footy in some form or another, that’s really powerful stuff,” he said.
“The girls have been picking up the messages and are engaging in it more and the boys are a little more standoffish, but it gives those boys the ability to actually look at mechanisms they can use to improve their mental health day to day, and they definitely have.
“We talk to them about it one-on-one, they are harder to gauge as a group, they’re a hard nut to crack… (but) it’s so good to have the Cowboys here because that kind of idol status just puts them in that mode where they’re instantly respectful.”
The Resilience Project, supported by the Cowboys, is jointly funded at Tully State High by the Commonwealth and State Disaster Recovery funding arrangements under the Community Development Program.
It’s delivered to year 9 students as part of their wellbeing classes once a week, often run alongside other resources such as Ted-Ed videos.
Working through the program is providing teachers at the school an opportunity to create a link with individual students and interact better with them one-on-one.
Mr Brennan said maximising the interaction with students in the program brings benefits to both students and teachers.
“I think that if the wellbeing teacher is invested in the process then the kids get more out of it,” he said.
“Given what some of them are walking away from in terms of their personal life and coming to school, some of their behaviours can be very tricky.
“So I guess you practice what you preach in that case, especially when you’re looking at such a diverse range of kids.”
The Cowboys are partnering with 42 schools across North and Far North Queensland for The Resilience Project in 2021, providing support, resources and ambassador visits to complement the program curriculum.
More information: theresilienceproject.com.au