What is Buddy Check for Jesse?

In recent years, mental health awareness has become more prevalent than ever. That’s why a Dr. Stu Gershman, a Victoria-based parent and hockey coach, formed Buddy Check for Jesse.

The Buddy Check for Jesse Society is a grassroots Canadian charity that was established in Victoria, BC in 2018. The goal of the organization is to help bring mental health awareness to not just hockey players, but to athletes across all sports.

The charity was created in honour of Jesse Short-Gershman, Stu’s son, who died by suicide in 2014 at the age of 22.

Since being established, the organization has established a large footprint in Greater Victoria and the Vancouver Island, with an expanding presence across Canada. Dr. Gershman wanted to ensure his two other sons felt supported, as well as inform other players about how important mental health is.

The North Vancouver Minor Hockey Association (NVMHA) had the chance to sit down and chat with Lesley Steane about empowering youth and young adults to support one another through kindness, compassion, and tolerance.

Growing kindness and compassion in hockey

Lesley Steane has been a longtime member of NVMHA. Her son began playing hockey in Hockey 2 and she’s been a part of the association ever since.

She’s been a team manager for years until this season, when she wanted to take up a broader role in the organization and took on the volunteer position of U11 Director.

With a background in psychology and a passion for mental health, Lesley also has professional experience as a therapist and counsellor.

“I’m a big advocate of mental health,” she tells NVMHA in an interview. “I work with people struggling with all kinds of issues. It’s something that I’m passionate about and always planned to do at some point and finally got there.”

She says that she’s been happy to see the increase in mental health conversations across higher levels of hockey and hopes that it can inspire conversations amongst younger age groups as well.

“There’s a push at the BC Hockey level, at the Hockey Canada level, what we see in the NHL, and I think it’s all really positive,” she explains. “I think raising awareness amongst coaches to see early trouble signs or even just having routine conversations can go a long way.”

“When one young person goes and gets help because of a conversation they have with their coach, that’s a win. Sometimes, these more difficult conversations aren’t had, but it’s important.”

Improving on-ice performance through mental coaching

With an additional passion for the mental performance side of hockey, Lesley stressed that having conversations around the mental side of game can even help players perform better.

“One of my side passions is work around performance anxiety and that translates from sports to a lot of things in life,” she explains. “At higher levels, athletes can really benefit from incorporating sports psychology into their training to support them.”

“I think whether it’s tryouts, playoffs, or a big game, I think every athlete will be able to say they’ve been nervous or that they’ve struggled with performance anxiety at one point.”

How to learn more

Players, coaches, and families can learn more about Buddy Check for Jesse and access other stories and resources by checking out the website.