Home » Fernie coach drives positive mental health discussions

Posted: July 11, 2021

Fernie coach drives positive mental health discussions

By Emanuel Sequeira

Thomas Skelton is impressed that he was able to finish his MindRight Ride for Mental Health.

He applauds everyone for getting on board to help blow past the goal of raising $10,000 for MindRight, earning $15,000 in donations.

Thomas Skelton

More importantly, the Fernie Ghostriders’ associate coach and assistant GM is proud of the conversations struck on mental health.

Through his personal social media, Skelton sparked conversations during the ride that were positive. He connected with people in the respective communities he was in.

“There was a guy in Creston who sat and chatted with me for a few minutes while I was waiting for a hotel and asked about the ride,” said Skelton, 33. “We had a really good conversation surrounding mental health. It importance and just de-stigmatizes mental health. What it means to maybe not feel at your best mentally. That is probably what I am most proud of. It’s been really rewarding to see people talk about it and have some conversations surrounding mental health.”

Skelton says the more people talk about their experiences, the more people see it is not a one person issue.

“It’s okay to feel that way. It’s okay to speak about any mental health issues you have,” he said. “Just seeing people being able to share their stories and get conversations going, it helps a lot of people realize they’re not in it alone. There is always somebody that they can reach out to. Hopefully people continue to make that decision.”

At each stop to end a riding day, Skelton was greeted by a member of the respective Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) organization and media person. Those stops were in Kimberley, Creston, Nelson and Kelowna. He also stopped in Gray Creek.

He credits the KIJHL for the support on this, as well as local media, who were “phenomenal.”

“I did a ton of radio interviews – morning shows. The local radio stations were phenomenal because it helped get the word out,” he said. “I can’t begin to say how grateful I am for the opportunity.”

Skelton isn’t taking credit for the money raised.

“The fundraising part was a big deal. We were fortunate enough that people really bought in and helped us surpass that,” said Skelton. “The KIJHL was unbelievable and all of the teams. I think that was really important. It’s something that I’m proud of, but that’s really their accomplishment more than it is mine. I got to give a shout out to the community of Elkford, where I live. They were phenomenal right at the start getting us going.”

Skelton pushed his limits cycling from Fernie to Kelowna. Day one took him five hours, seven minutes to cycle 121.8 km from Fernie to Kimberley. 

“It was a lot of fun, it was kind of ebb and flow, sort of like a hockey game,” he said of his cycling adventure. “There were some ups and downs and a few times I had to talk some sense into myself. Hey, one pedal at a time or one step at a time. All in all it was a really good experience. I hadn’t done that many 100-km rides back-to-back before.”

Adrenaline pushed Skelton through the first day. He woke up at 4:30 a.m. each day to beat the heat, but the second day was a tough stretch. Skelton cycled from Kimberley to Creston, which was 145 km.

“There were some elevations by Moyie Lake that had busy highway traffic,” said Skelton. “Those places tested me mentally. That was the toughest riding day. We knew that was going to be the hard part. Everything else just worked out amazing.”

Skelton persevered during the ride because there are five things as a coach and teacher he tries to adapt from NBA coach Doc Rivers. The first is to finish the race. Second, is to not make excuses for yourself. Third is, put we over me, fourth is pressure is a privilege and the last one is champions are successful people who move forward. 

“If you are going to talk the talk, you better walk the walk,” he added. “There were a few times where, you go hold on, you got to do this for five more minutes. From there you just keep building. You have got to finish your race. You put a little bit of pressure on yourself and have high expectations for yourself. I used some of those keys that I try to teach and preach both at school and in the dressing room.

“There were a few times where I had to have some pep talks while I’m on the road or on this stretch of highway that looks like it’s getting longer every time I look up,” he continued.  

Skelton wrapped up his journey at Wings in Kelowna at 4 p.m.

He can’t say enough good things about Myles Mattila, the founder of MindRight for Athletes Society and the great things he does. The two had a good chat while watching the Tampa Bay Lightning win the Stanley Cup over Montreal.

Skelton has many highlights from this adventure, but seeing his wife and kids, meeting up at the hotel and talking about his day, having some quiet time with them was the overall highlight.

“Seeing my kids excited for me, excited for the cause and opening them up to the world of mental health –  allowing them to talk about it, I think that was probably the highlight overall.”

– Emanuel Sequeira is KIJHL Director of Communications


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