The Next Round: What happens after you change your drinking?

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alcohol and sport

Alcohol and sport, stereotypes, and real health

While most social gatherings tend to involve booze, alcohol and sport seem to be inextricably linked. It’s a heady mix of celebration drinks, commiseration drinks, and getting together in a passionate environment. Trips away, hosting others, and using the clubhouse for events also lend themselves to a good amount of drinking. But often we find a clash of ideals between being hyperfocused on fitness and less careful with alcohol intake. So what happens when alcohol and sport become a problem for players and supporters?

The world of sport is not one that most of the team at Club Soda are particularly familiar with, so we invited some of the movers and shakers of the sports world to come and talk to us about the changing face of alcohol and sport. We were excited (and a little nervous) to speak with the founding Trustee of the Women’s Sport Trust, Sue Anstiss MBE, stereotype-smashing Muslim rugby player, Zainab Alema, and sports mental health advocate Mat Mason-Hames of Mindset sport. The panel discussion is chaired by Bruce Aitchison, presenter of rugby-based podcast Happiness Is Egg Shaped.

Alcohol and sport: your expert panelists

Chairing this fascinating discussion is Bruce Aitchison. Bruce is a proud Scot, Rugby Union fan, father of two, and host of the podcast Happiness is Egg Shaped.

I have been around sports for a long time as a player and, you know, supporter, and it’s a huge part of the culture, alcohol. And what we don’t want to do through this is make it that alcohol is bad. But what we want to do is discuss the choices and how it interacts with our involvement in sport.

Bruce Aitchison

Our first guest panelist is Sue Anstiss MBE. A founding Trustee of the Women’s Sport Trust, in 2018 Sue received an MBE for her services to grassroots and women’s sports. Sue is the author of Game On: the unstoppable rise of women’s sport, a host of the award-winning podcast The Game Changers, and co-founder of the Women’s Sport Collective. Sue is also a member of the RFU’s Independent Diversity and Inclusion Group, a Board Director at Lewes FC, and a Trustee of Leisure Focus.

People feel there’s something’s been taken away from them, and that isn’t the case at all with this. I think that’s how it needs to be positioned. It’s actually if we just put another tap on the bar, and there is an alcohol-free beer available ther, you know, you can carry on drinking, you can moderate, you’ve got more choice, it’s about choice. I think that was the guttural reaction that people had, like, Oh, my God, you’re going to tell us we can’t drink with rugby, I’ll never be the same. And actually it’s about layering something more positive that’s available for more people.

Sue Anstiss MBE

Joining the panel is the wonderful Zainab Alema. Zaina is a rugby player, a mother, a nurse and a Bulldozer. She’s an inspirational superwoman in sport who is literally smashing stereotypes as a female Muslim rugby player.

I got to see the culture of rugby through the lens of the clubhouse season, you know, the post-match points, etc. And yeah, it was quite difficult, actually, to be in that environment. Because I was new, and I didn’t know how to navigate myself, especially being the only one that didn’t drink on my team. It was really difficult. I found myself not going to any of the socials, which is quite tough because a lot of the bonding was done out at bars and clubs – I was pulling myself away from that because of the alcohol. I had to do a lot of my bonding on pitch.

Zainab Alema

Our final podcast guest expert is a friend of Club Soda, Mat Mason-Hames, who recently wrote an article for us on tackling the drinking culture in sports clubs. Mat is the director of Mindset Sport. They provide free or subsidised well-being and mental health resources and training to grassroots sports clubs.

This is about introducing choices to people’s lives. And for me, as somebody who doesn’t drink anymore, when I go to a sports event and when I go to a sports club, the choice (of alcohol-free drink) just isn’t there yet. I want to be able to have a pint of beer. I want to be able to have a gin and tonic. I don’t want to sit there with a pint of orange juice or lemonade. Why aren’t there choices available to more people who don’t choose to drink alcohol?

Mat Mason-Hames

More inspirational discussions on the Club Soda Podcast

The Club Soda podcast is all the inspiration you need to create and sustain a life that doesn’t centre on drinking. Find the advice and support you need, whether you are cutting down, taking a break, or going alcohol-free for the long-term.

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