HEADSTRONG

NBC Sports Chicago and Regional Networks present 'Headstrong: Mental Health and Sports'

NBC Sports Chicago and Regional Networks present 'Headstrong: Mental Health and Sports'

Stamford, Conn./Chicago, Ill. (November 6, 2019) – NBC Sports Regional Networks is launching its multiplatform initiative on mental health and men’s health, HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports, throughout November. The month-long campaign begins with the debut of the feature documentary HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports, on each of the NBC Sports Regional Networks, along with on-site activations and events planned in several key markets, and robust short-form content featuring a broad array of perspectives on mental health and men’s health.  The documentary is produced in partnership with Religion of Sports, the Sports Emmy-winning media company founded by Tom Brady, Michael Strahan, and Gotham Chopra.

The one-hour HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports documentary premieres this week on the NBC Sports Regional Networks and debuts nationwide on NBCSN on November 20.  HeadStrong will make its NBC Sports Chicago premiere on Saturday, November 9 at 9:00 PM CT with re-airs to occur throughout the month on both the main NBC Sports Chicago channel location and on NBC Sports Chicago+.

The HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports documentary tells the story of four elite athletes who have faced mental health challenges: Justise Winslow, forward/guard for Miami Heat; Nathan Braaten, former Oregon State University soccer player and founder of Dam Worth It; Hayden Hurst, Baltimore Ravens tight end; and Clint Malarchuk, former goalie for Quebec Nordiques, Washington Capitals, and Buffalo Sabres. Six-time Pro Bowl receiver and Founder of House Of Athlete Brandon Marshall also appears in the program and serves as an executive producer.  A trailer of the one-hour documentary special is available here.  

As part of the HeadStrong initiative, a series of more than 35 short-form digital video features focused on mental health and men’s health issues will be released throughout the month on a special HeadStrong web page, www.nbcsports.com\headstrong. An additional 50-plus combined short-form digital video features will be published by the NBC Sports Regional Networks on their respective HeadStrong sites, including Chicago-specific vignettes on NBCSportsChicago.com featuring interviews with former Bears standouts Lance Briggs and Matt Forte, “Football Aftershow” host Laurence Holmes, former Northwestern running back Torri Stuckey and former Bears running back/veteran NBC 5 Chicago sports anchor Mike Adamle and his wife Kim among others. In addition, written articles, social content, and other media will complement the feature documentary and short-form videos.  Plus – fans can look forward to an exclusive interview with Blackhawks goaltender Robin Lehner that will air on upcoming editions of “Blackhawks Pregame Live” and “Blackhawks All Accces.”

To create additional awareness and to further the conversation surrounding mental health and men’s health issues, NBC Sports Regional Networks will host special events and activations in several markets, including Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington. NBC Sports Chicago held its informative and moving HeadStrong activation event on Monday, November 4 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago which featured insights from medical experts including Gail Grabcynski (LCSW, Making the Difference International, Inc.;Lead Mental Health Clinician for the Chicago Bears for 11 years), Andrew Joy (former mental skills coach with the Blackhawks Stanley Cup-winning team in 2015; Founder, The Mental Difference-Sports Psychology Training and Counseling Services, Dr. Stewart Shankman (Professor and Chief of the Division of Psychology, Northwestern Medicine), along with candid, real-life discussions and coping skills conversations featuring the Adamle’s and Stuckey. Hosted by NBC Sports Chicago’s David Kaplan, the special event also included a sneak preview screening of the upcoming HeadStrong documentary.

Many NBC Sports Regional Networks on-air commentators - including NBC Sports Chicago’s Pat Boyle - are making personal pledges to support the initiative. In partnership with Movember and their annual campaign in which men grow moustaches during November to generate awareness and raise funds for men’s health issues, more than 15 NBC Sports Regional Networks hosts, analysts and reporters will ‘grow their mo,’ and promote their efforts across platforms. Fans can follow their progress by using #HeadStrongNBC and #Movember, plus – fans can make a donation to NBC Sports Chicago’s Movember team by visiting NBCSportsChicago.com/Movember.

The HeadStrong initiative follows NBC Sports Regional Networks’ successful documentary project last year on youth sports, entitled Fair Play, and the 2017 initiative TOMBOY, which focused on gender issues in sports. Both Fair Play and TOMBOY were produced by NBC Sports Regional Networks and were televised nationwide on NBC Owned Television Stations and NBCSN.

Headstrong: Torri Stuckey turns a dark experience into a positive for others

Headstrong: Torri Stuckey turns a dark experience into a positive for others

Torri Stuckey was in a dark place the summer before his senior season with Northwestern football.

He began his career with the Wildcats as a running back and was sporadically used in two years at the position. He then moved to safety. Entering his senior season in 2003, he felt he was ready for his breakthrough, but it wasn't coming easy.

“Northwestern, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Stuckey said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best so that kind of culminated in some dark moments.”

Stuckey wrote a letter addressed to his mom that was going to be a suicide note if things didn’t go his way.

“Going into my senior year I really felt like I had done everything to earn that role, but me and my head coach didn’t really see eye-to-eye on a lot of things,” Stuckey said. “I really felt like at that moment when I was in camp, after everything that I had done, that I was just not being given an opportunity to start. I felt like there was nothing I could do at that point. That triggered something in me that I’ve never felt since. I honestly feel like I snapped.”

In the letter, he wrote “I made a pact with myself, I’m either leaving this camp as a starter or not leaving at all. I guess it was the latter.”

He did end up winning the starting job and helped Northwestern make a bowl game for the first time in three seasons. Things ended positively at Northwestern for Stuckey, but he never forgot how he felt that summer.

“I wrote the letter because, looking at it in retrospect, I was suffering from a deep state of depression,” Stuckey said.

Stuckey has since used that feeling as fuel to make a positive influence on others. He now works with teenagers and kids at self-help workshops and speaks at schools. He wrote a self-help book for teenagers and young adults, Impoverished State of Mind: Thinking Outside da Block.

“My efforts and my mission is really just to uplift people, to encourage them and to hopefully use myself as an example to say, ‘Hey if I can do it, I’m nobody special,’ so can you,” Stuckey said.

See more of Stuckey’s story in the video above.

This is all part of a larger message and project from the NBC Sports Regional Networks. Religion of Sports — the media company founded by Tom Brady, Michael Strahan and Gotham Chopra — has partnered with NBC Sports regional networks for a new one-hour documentary addressing the issue of mental health in sports. “HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports” is executive produced by six-time NFL Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall.

“Mental health issues have been pushed to the forefront of our national conversation,” Ted Griggs, president, Group Leader and Strategic Production & Programming, NBC Sports Regional Networks, added. “Thanks to athletes like Brandon Marshall, Kevin Love, Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, and executives such as NBA commissioner Adam Silver, we know that our sports heroes face mental health challenges, just like so many others. We hope this project will advance that conversation and show people that resources and assistance are available to everyone.”

Headstrong: Emphasizing mental health in the physical world of professional fighting

Headstrong: Emphasizing mental health in the physical world of professional fighting

MMA fighter Jose Torres has had a controversial career, but he maintains that mental health is a big part of the success and failure of the sport.

“It’s crazy because I never thought mental health was an important thing in sports,” Torres said. “The reason why I say that is because it’s a physical sport. I’m punching you in the head, I’m punching you here, elbow, kicking you, whatever the case may be.”

Though dominant at times in the ring, Torres would fight his own terror and demons outside of it. He had to learn how to manage the stress of performance and expectation before the competition.  

He said nerves never left him before a fight and that’s something that should never go away.

“If you’re not mentally prepared for anything, you’re going to go in there and freeze,” Torres said. “Every single first fight that I had, I was terrified. I was nervous.”

Now, Torres tries to spread the message of the importance of mental health as a mental coach for other fighters. See more from Torres in the video above.

This is all part of a larger message and project from the NBC Sports Regional Networks. Religion of Sports — the media company founded by Tom Brady, Michael Strahan and Gotham Chopra — has partnered with NBC Sports regional networks for a new one-hour documentary addressing the issue of mental health in sports. “HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports” is executive produced by six-time NFL Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall.

“Mental health issues have been pushed to the forefront of our national conversation,” Ted Griggs, president, Group Leader and Strategic Production & Programming, NBC Sports Regional Networks, added. “Thanks to athletes like Brandon Marshall, Kevin Love, Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, and executives such as NBA commissioner Adam Silver, we know that our sports heroes face mental health challenges, just like so many others. We hope this project will advance that conversation and show people that resources and assistance are available to everyone.”