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Coach’s Mental Health: When Should Coaches Get Mental Health Support?

Coaching isn’t easy…there is pressure from parents, administrators, and athletes – all with different agenda and needs. These days, helping athletes through mental health struggles and tough times can also be part of your role as a coach. But your mental health matters too. Now more than ever, it’s easy to end up feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, and burned out, or simply that you’re taking too much work home from practice.

Here, TrueSport Expert Kevin Chapman, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, shares signs that your mental health might be suffering, and when to seek professional help.

Sign #1: Taking things personally

If you find yourself holding back tears or wanting to punch a wall during a practice or competition, that could be a sign that you’re taking your team’s progress entirely too personally, says Chapman. Your emotional wellbeing shouldn’t be dictated by how a practice went, or even by a player on the team who is struggling. If you notice that your emotions are attached to your work and to your players, you need to cultivate some separation. Empathy is important, yes, but not at the cost of your own mental health. You can be empathetic with players and care about their progress without hurting yourself in the process. “If you’re feeling significant distress regularly, it’s time to get help,” Chapman adds.

Sign #2: Trouble controlling emotions

Some coaches are naturally more boisterous than others: Shouting during practice isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you notice that you’re suddenly shouting constantly and you’ve never done so before, that’s another sign of emotional dysregulation. Think of it as a warning sign or a ‘check engine’ light. “If I’m noticing that I’m yelling more than I typically do, or that I’m swearing more than I ever do, then that would mean I’m starting to get dysregulated,” Chapman says. Even if you’re saving the cursing for the coach’s meeting, that could still be a signal that something isn’t right.

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