Youth Sports Think Tank 2019 Day Four Review

Mental Health – Recognizing It And Becoming Part Of The Solution

“The human body will only perform as good as the software that is running it.”

Welcome to my Day 4 review and summary of the GO! Chase Excellence in Youth Sports Virtual Think Tank.

My review focuses on one presentation that I have viewed in the last 24 hours.

Each of my reviews follows the format of the Think Tank ‘Workbook & Reflection Journal’ provided alongside each of the sessions:

  • What – What issues does this session address?
  • So What? – Why are these issues important?
  • Now What? – How can I address these issues or implement the ideas in this session?

Today’s Review

Today’s review is from the “Correlate” track. The “Correlate – Coach the Person” track is focused on various aspects of youth sports from nutrition, to fun maps, to physical literacy and more for the WHOLE athlete.

The presentation I chose today was ‘Mental Health – Recognizing it and becoming part of the solution’ with Ashleigh Hopkins. Ashleigh is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.


It is said that sport is 90% mental and 10% physical, yet coaches spend almost 100% of the time on the physical/skill development/performance aspect. Can you imagine how much better it would be if coaches spent even 10% on the mental aspect of sport?

This session encourages coaches to invest time and energy to engage with kids and learn about their mental state.

Coaches should know what to do to support kids who may be under pressure or having a hard time with lots going on in their lives.

The advice given is:

1. Get to know your athletes

Every session, coaches should work on connecting with their athletes. Check in and see how they are doing. Open up the conversation and discuss things other than the sport. Coaches should also allow their athletes to know a bit about them.

2. Spend time researching what mental skills training looks like

Learn about mental skills training such as visualisation, thought stopping, etc, through articles, books and metal health professionals.

3. Don’t try to do it all yourself

Coaches should know that they are surrounded by others who can help them. Find a mental health professional such as a sports psychologist who can become a contact and an ally. This can be a person to go to for information and advice, particularly if there is a concern about a young athlete.

So What?

Coaches are hugely influential in a young person’s life and can often be an important confidant for kids. Coaches may be that person who can arrange for a young athlete to get the help they need, even to the extent of preventing a tragedy.

We may also be losing kids to sports and  missing out on allowing kids to reach their full potential by not focusing enough on the mental aspects of the sport and life in general.

Now What?

This session has made me even more determined to ensure that I regularly “check in” with my athletes.

When facing problems with an athlete’s performance, I have resolved to consider and investigate the mental side and not just the technical or physical side. As discussed in the presentation, technique is not always the answer to an athlete’s issues.

I am also keen to look into connecting with a mental health professional who can provide me with information, support and advice.

It would would be great to see sporting organisations and coaching associations compiling a list of recommended metal health professionals for their members, parents and coaches.

Favourite Quotes From Presentation

“The human body will only perform as good as the software that is running it.”

“It’s ok to not be ok.”

“Sports can be good for people, and it can be bad for people and the coach has a lot of control over which one is the case.”

Further reading

Youth Sports Think Tank 2019 Day Three Review

If this post helped you please take a moment to help others by sharing it on social media. If you want to learn more I encourage you to leave questions and comments or contact me directly.

20150614_154020-1Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes and founder of the blog Learn more about him here and connect with him on TwitterFacebookLinkedin, Anchor or via email.

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