Just last week I had prepared my 8th-grade football team for competition against another undefeated team. Our confidence was relatively high as we were at 3-0 and feeling good about our progress as a team thus far.
Despite this, I had noticed that I had not been as motivated and driven as I usually am as a coach. The team's energy was low, as practice and game prep appeared sluggish and mediocre at best. Concentration seemed to be an issue and mistakes and lack of focus was prevalent. I seemed a little down myself, as many life factors, (job, family, tackling to-do lists) seemed to affect my general overall health. We all have days and weeks like this, but this week seemed exceptionally off with a busy calendar and little rest.
I have been in the mental health world, working with athletes and coaches, for over 30 years now. I have seen the cycle play out for many sports coaches. Coaches want to be there for their athletes as a mentor, motivator, disciplinarian as well as someone they can confide in.
But, do you really?
Do you really want to hear that they don’t have enough food to eat at home or that they are being verbally, physically, or sexually abused?
Or that they are cutting themselves before competition because they can’t deal with the pressure. Do you want them to tell you that they throw up after every meal because they have an eating disorder?
Do you really want them to tell you that they are having to find one reason, every single morning, why they shouldn’t drive off the bridge on the way to school.
Do we really want to be there for them in that way?
Coaches often avoid or ignore these conversations for...