Athletes & Mental Health: The Role of Sports in a Young Person’s Life
On Thursday, May 26th, 2022 Positive Coaching Alliance, in collaboration with the Jed Foundation, hosted a webinar, Athletes & Mental Health: The Role of Sports in a Young Person's Life. The conversation was moderated by PCA’s Courtney Pollack and a panel including former San Francisco Giants player Drew Robinson, San Francisco Giants Director of Employee Assistance Program Shana Alexander, and the Jed Foundation Senior Clinical Director Suzanne Button.
The discussion focused on how parents and coaches of youth and high school athletes can work to create the best possible environment for youth to thrive, as well as how to identify someone who is struggling with mental health, and how to help them.
Suzanne began by explaining many of the positives of youth sports and evidence to suggest that a successful youth sports experience can:
- lower levels of stress and anxiety
- decrease substance abuse
- increase youth resilience
- create a sense of agency and mastery
- boost confidence
- elevate empathy levels
Shana discussed that to unlock this potential, the proper positive environment must be created and the important role parents play. For example, parents need to monitor how they react to their child’s good or bad performance, make a distinction between effort and performance, and emphasize that success is not based on the actual performance, but the effort and willingness to help their team. One idea she mentioned was to ask your child about their own personal goals, as they are much more important and motivating than larger goals set by the team or the parent themselves. Once a suitable environment for indulging emotions and creating personal growth is sustained, the parent can move into deeper topics, such as helping their child learn how to fail.
The panel then moved on to address how to determine if somebody is at risk of ending their own life despite not showing clear signs. Shana emphasized that everyone should feel open and comfortable talking about mental health, and that people looking for risk in others should be very direct about their questioning and know it is okay to ask “are you feeling like ending your own life?”.