The topic of mental health is the subject of many discussions in the media. On Instagram alone, a search for #MentalHealth results in 42.5M posts.
Poor mental health can affect anyone – from young children, to the elderly, to our most prominent public figures – it doesn’t discriminate. The coaching profession is not exempt, so it’s worth taking a deeper look at the causes and solutions to this health crisis.
The pressure is real, on and off the field.
A coach’s world is wrought with high demands and stresses at every turn. Yet, coaches typically take care of others to the detriment of their own well-being. The irony is that in order to be an effective coach, they have to be healthy themselves.
What’s causing the strain on mental health for coaches? In a 2021 study of 119 elite-level coaches, over 95% pinpointed athlete injury, long hours, and team performance as the most prevalent stressors.
Performance:Pressure from all directions of their organization to pull together a successful program. This includes concern over potential player injuries, team performance, and budget capacity within the program.
Organizational:Coaches today are expected to perform well beyond just coaching on the field and in the locker room. They’ve got to answer the call for fundraising, field media questions, work through NIL regulations, plus a myriad of other ancillary duties.
Personal:In every profession, we are more than the sum of our job, and this applies to coaches. Hectic travel, media, and social stressors can amplify and many find the ability to disengage from the role of coach difficult. Their personal responsibilities can tend to fall to the bottom of the priority list. The resulting guilt is a major stressor.
A winning playbook for managing mental health.
Not managing these situations appropriately can cause a disruption in overall health and daily functions such as lack of sleep, depression, emotional outbursts, and poor eating habits. Too much of any of these disruptions can result in poor judgment and hinder decision-making abilities.
Unmanaged mental health impacts a coach’s ability to do their job if they’re not intentional about their physical, mental, and spiritual health. Typically, coaches aren’t focused on or aware of their mental health and its effects on their daily living, but the solution may lie in becoming more self-aware and intentional.
The outlying stressors may be out of the control of a coach, but figuring out how to handle them isn’t.
Coaches need to first come to grips with the impact that their poor health may have on their lives as well as those they interact with daily.
Next, it’s important to recognize stressful triggers and build a game plan for addressing the challenge.
Physical exercise:We preach it but don’t always practice it. It’s not just about building strength. Tight muscles, a pounding pulse, heartburn, and insomnia are all physical symptoms of stress. Exercise releases endorphins in your brain to relax muscles and relieve body tension. Healthy body, healthy mind.
Healthy eating habits:Being mindful of what you’re putting in your body provides beneficial nutrition for your physical and mental states. Refined sugars and fatty foods have been on the chopping block for years. Opt instead for high-protein foods that can supply your body with the nutrients it needs to produce serotonin – a neurotransmitter with the sole purpose of regulating sleep, mood, and pain.
Mental well-being:Finding a means to inner peace for sports coaches may feel like a foreign concept, but the benefits are vast. Focusing on self-care and elements of spirituality and overall wellness encourages people to have better relationships with themselves, others, and the unknown. It can help you deal with stress by providing a sense of peace and purpose and can become important in times of emotional stress.
There’s a real need to create solutions to overcome poor mental health and it starts with awareness.
While coaches have a personal responsibility for advocating for the space they need and their own mental health, athletic programs have a responsibility to provide coaches with the same level of support they afford their athletes.
For the sake of coaches, it’s time to open up and talk about mental health causes and solutions.
Upcoming Webinar: Unpacking Mental Health: The Unspoken Impact on Coaches
Interested in learning more?
Join us for our upcoming webinar at 6 pm on November 2, 2022 – Unpacking Mental Health: The Unspoken Impact on Coaches, featuring Dr. Kensa Gunter, Licensed Clinical & Sport Psychologist and Dr. LaKeitha Poole: Assistant AD + Sport Psychology and Counseling at LSU.
About the Black Coaches United
Black Coaches United strives to foster more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments – in our sports and in our communities – through training, mentoring, and advocacy on behalf of black athletes, coaches, and administrators.
Interested in learning more about membership and our mission?