In our previous blog post we discussed building relationship, creating psychological safety - a culture where communication is second nature and your athletes know, without question, that you are there for them not only as athletes but as individuals too. Having dedicated time to creating this environment you are more likely to be involved in varied conversations and perhaps delving into areas you may not be accustomed to. Fear not! You know how to have conversations and you know how to communicate with young people – you have the makings of someone who can support a youth who is willing to give you more than a one-word answer.
You are in a position to notice when something is ‘off’, when they are not acting like themselves.
Being part of an athlete’s life, you spend a great deal of time with them and get to know them in many ways. You learn how they carry on with friends and teammates; how they respond to challenges; what motivates them; how they behave when they are stressed; and what it looks like when there is something going on for them. You are in a position to notice when something is ‘off’, when they are not acting like themselves. With this comes some responsibility however you already know that and have set the stage by creating a culture that shows you are willing to go the extra mile.
Starting the conversation.
Let’s dive right into it. You have laid the foundation, an environment of support and encouragement. You know the individuals on your team and you can tell when something is not quite right. You want to reach out, but you are unsure that you will say or do the right thing. As someone who has become trusted in their lives it may be time to go for it. If you want to know if something is wrong…take a deep breath…and ask.
- “Is everything okay with you? It seems like something is a little off.”
- “You don’t seem to be yourself lately. Is everything okay?”
- “I’ve noticed… Can I help in any way?”
- “I know you’ve been having a hard time lately. What can I do to help?”
Ultimately it comes down to just asking. You may not get very far the first time, but you’ve laid the foundation and you’ve reached out. That in and of itself demonstrates your concern, your attention and more importantly your level of care.
Perhaps one of the most important parts of this discussion is knowing that it is okay to not have the answers. Maybe even more so, that you can admit that you don’t have the answers. It is an incredible gift to show a young person that you don’t have the answers to everything, as they don’t, and that you will take the time to figure it out and not give up.
- “It sounds like you’re struggling. Do you think we should talk to mom and dad?”
- “I’m not sure how to fix this but I want to help. What would you like to do next?”
- “Thank you for talking to me about this. I’m not sure what to do, can we reach out to someone for help?”
Being a source of support may involve taking the initiative to reach out and start the conversation. That’s it! You aren’t expected to solve the issue or magically make it go away. Simply asking your athletes what is happening and how you can help can be the catalyst to a shift that could be exactly what is needed.
You aren’t expected to solve the issue or magically make it go away.
There are few things as rewarding as a young person who is willing to let you into their lives, willing to discuss challenges they are experiencing and looking to you to offer some sort of assistance. If you find yourself engaging in more and more conversations, getting responses when you ask questions – take a moment to recognize the environment you have shaped and the culture you have created. Well done!
Join us at our next webinar (below) when we'll take a closer look at how to recognize the signs that your athlete may be suffering as well as how to approach those who you feel may be struggling with mental health.
JOIN THE FREE WEBINAR, TUESDAY MAY 11, 11AM MST:
Supporting athletes who are struggling with mental health concerns
In the interest of being cautious, many coaches hesitate to reach out to athletes who may be struggling with mental health concerns. Join psychotherapists Jessica Renney and Paula McQuaid as we will take a look how you don’t have to be a professional to be a source of support to those who are struggling.