27 Sep 2020

Black Fern credits focus on mental health for improving her game

6:42 am on 27 September 2020

A tough year has made world champion Black Fern Kendra Cocksedge even stronger.

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Kendra Cocksedge is a veteran of the Black Ferns team. Photo: © www.Photosport.nz 2018

The New Zealand and Canterbury halfback, who has played at the international level for 13 years, has faced plenty of personal and professional challenges in 2020.

Cocksedge is a women's rugby development manager for New Zealand Rugby but that role came under threat as the organisation went through a restructure, laying off 25 per cent of its staff.

The 32-year-old's job was initially on the line and the uncertainty created as much stress as she had ever had to deal with.

"I've got a mortgage now and I'm sitting there going, oh my goodness, if I don't get this job what am I going to do," Cocksedge said during what was Mental Health Awareness week in New Zealand.

"I've got rugby but I was thinking gosh I'd have to look for a job and I've got World Cup to prep for and all these things are kind of going through my head. But it actually made me train harder.

"I was lucky enough to have a gym set up at home ... [and] for me my outlet is to exercise. When I am stressed and a little bit under the weather, I like to get out and put the hard yards in.

"I came out of lockdown really physically fit ... that's how I managed getting through those tough times."

Following on from that uncertainty was the confirmation the Black Ferns international schedule for 2020 had been canned.

The news came just a year left before the World Cup will be hosted in New Zealand.

Cocksedge said, as an organised and disciplined person when it came to setting goals, putting her mental health first helped her improve as a player.

Becky Davidson of Canterbury is congratulated by Kendra Cocksedge (L) after scoring a try. Farah Palmer Cup.

Kendra Cocksedge says 2020 has taught her to be mentally and well as physically fit. Photo: Photosport

"I like to have all my ducks in a row. With COVID this year some little fluffy ducks have zoomed off in different directions. But I've learned a lot about myself during the during the past year and I'm sure everyone has.

"I've probably learned a lot around staying mentally fit is as important as staying physically fit. Balance is really key, putting yourself first is really important.

"It's okay not to be okay and that it's fine to talk about feelings, it's okay to cry.

"I am someone who's an up person, I'm always the one that's got energy and I'm always excited and people love being around me. But at the same time it's important to be vulnerable as well."