Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has spearheaded a focus on caring for national team players' mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When COVID-19 shut down football across the globe, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold knew maintaining his players' mental fitness would be as important as their physical conditioning.
That's why Arnold took immediate steps to ensure he and other national team coaches and support staff were aware of how to handle the mental challenges their players would be confronting away from the game, their teammates and, for some, their family and friends.
Working with FFA performance support expert Jackson Kupke, Arnold arranged training for national team staff with psychologists at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) six weeks ago.
The institute's mental health referral network was also extended, allowing players from multiple Australian national football teams including the Socceroos, Matildas and Olyroos access.
The network is also being offered to family and friends of players.
Arnold says with many players left on their own during the lockdown as support staff from their clubs were stood down, it had been a big part of national team staff to fill the breach.
"All elite sportsmen love routine and when you take routine away, it can be scary for some boys and girls who haven't been told on how to adapt," Arnold told AAP.
"Whichever way the mind goes the rest will follow.
"It's about just talking to them about what are their issues and they can range from different things to a player being off-contract to a player, for example, all of a sudden they aren't used to being at home with their kids because they're out training and away and all of a sudden at home all the time.
"Those type of things can be viewed negatively, but you look at the positives and the positive is they're getting so much great time to spend with their children at a very young age and doing something different to what they normally would do.
"It's a great lesson for further down in life."
Arnold says his role had to adapt to a more father-figure approach as tactics and training took a back seat to ensuring players were looking after their mental health.
That approach was evident when Arnold organised a video conference with Socceroos squad members last month and told them the shutdown was akin to an early exposure to retirement.
"You're in the dressing room, you've got a heap of mates around you," Arnold said.
"You have great banter. You train and you travel together. You work hard, you play football together but the day you retire that's all taken away. It's all not there any more.