Stuart, who struggled with his mental health after fracturing his eye socket on the 2017 British and Irish Lions Tour to New Zealand, was influenced by comments on social media which increased the pressure he put on himself.
“I came back from New Zealand, had my shoulder re-constructed, was out for four months and all I was getting was ‘is Stuart Hogg going to be back to his best, is he going to be anywhere near where he used to be?’
“I was determined to get back and really show them. Which meant I tried far too hard, I tried to be too lean, I made more mistakes than I’d made before and then I picked up another injury which meant another three months on the side-line. It was almost like, start again, build yourself back up, get back playing, get injured, repeat process.”
The Scotland captain was also impacted by two mistakes in the first two matches of this year’s Six Nations, which led to further social media abuse. He now doesn’t have access to his personal social media accounts as a result.
“I was getting absolute pelters, everywhere I was looking, newspapers, online, social media. The best thing that happened was that I went back down to Exeter, and I played against Gloucester in the bye-week, and I scored an absolute belter and I was like ‘where has that been for the last three years?’ It took me two years to run over the try line with the ball, I’d scored three kick-throughs in that time. I was like, that’s what I’m about, that’s me. I scored another belter against Italy the week after because I knew the monkey was off my back to doing what I love doing.
“I spoke to Steve Black [his mentor and friend] a lot, I spoke to Gregor [Townsend] a lot. I was getting people on social media telling me I dropped the ball because I was captain, If I wasn’t captain, I still would have dropped the ball! It’s as simple as that. Gregor told me I was still going to be captain, and just to relax and do my job because everything else was spot on. For me, scoring that try was a bit of what I know I can do. I have complete confidence in my ability and what I can do on a rugby field.”
“During lockdown I’ve done a lot of thinking that I could potentially have four or five years left of playing rugby which is quite a scary thought because it feels like only yesterday that I started. But I just said I’m not going to listen to what people have to say, I’m going to get on with it, enjoy my rugby, have some fun, and any pelters that come my way, I’m not going to read it because I don’t have access to my social media for a start which is great.”
Laureus Sport for Good is a global charity that supports children and young people by using the power of sport to end violence, discrimination, and disadvantage. It operates under the fundamental belief that the achievement of this ambition is best delivered by ending the social issues that affect the younger generation and changing their lives for the better.
Over the last 20 years, Laureus Sport for Good has raised more than €150m for the Sport for Development sector, reaching and helping change the lives of almost 6 million children and young people since 2000. Laureus Sport for Good currently supports more than 200 programmes in over 40 countries that use the power of sport to transform lives.
For information on ‘Mindset’, World Rugby’s player welfare programme, visit their website.