Thanks for tuning back into my learning project. I hope you had a fantastic week.
Last week, I introduced the course I am creating and explained a little bit about why I decided that it was necessary. You can check out that post here!
This week, I decided to analyze the answers from the survey and decide on the major course topics. If I am being quite honest with you, reading the survey results is not easy for me. It reminds me of the time I spent struggling, and it makes me think of how many other people are struggling too. I know that it is not something to become hung up on because we are working to make a difference in this area, but it still absolutely breaks my heart. I guess that’s what happens when you’re an empath!
But, let’s dive right in to the results from the survey! I shared this survey on Instagram, but it is not yet closed because I would like to allow others to share their experiences as well. However, there have been 93 responses thus far. Out of the 93 responses, 82.8% said that the sport they played had a negative impact on their mental health. 79.6% of responses said that coaches specifically had a negative impact on their mental health. This is incredibly alarming to me, and likely to you as well. It is clear that there is a serious issue in the athletic community, but it appears as if there is little being done to change that. That is why I chose to actively address this topic. That 82.8% of responses should not exist.
The survey also listed the following statements, and asked people to select the aspects that had a negative impact on their mental health. The numbers following the statement indicate the number of people (out of 93) and total percentage of responses that agreed the statement negatively affected their mental health.
- Pressure put on yourself. 86 92.5%
- Pressure from parents. 39 41.0%
- Pressure from teammates. 42 45.2%
- Pressure from coaches 70. 75.3%
- Injury. 48 51.6%
- Language used by coaches. 33 35.5%
- Language used by teammates. 25 26.9%
- Stress from a busy schedule. 73 78.5%
- Wanting to quit the sport. 51 54.8%
- Negative self-talk. 69 74.2%
- Lack of encouragement. 62 66.7%
Additionally, the survey asked to explain why the participant’s mental health was affected by the previous statements they chose. Here are a few snippets of their responses.
- “The coaches would make me feel attacked with the terminology they used”
- “The coach frequently made comments about weight… and told me she thought I would’ve been skinnier coming back from a 6 week liquid diet after surgery”
- “Sometimes it’s so hard to keep pushing yourself when you’re not getting results and all you have is negative feedback”
- “Having coaches personally target me with angry language made me feel really incapable”
- “Even after a win the only thing I’d hear from coaches and parents were critiques, and even though I think it’s helpful, the way it was communicated made me feel like I was doing everything wrong”
- “I felt like I always was needed to perform and couldn’t have a bad day. There wasn’t time for me to struggle and be down and feel emotions during practice or game”
We also asked the participants what they wanted future coaches to know, and what we can do differently to ensure that athletics have a positive impact on the mental health of athletes? Here are some of their answers.
- “Just because somebody needs to hear harsher words as motivation in a game or competition doesn’t mean they don’t need encouragement and softer language once it’s over”
- “Make sure there is an equal balance of tough love as well as reassurance”
- “Training and competition is not the only place stress comes from”
- “Get to know your players and realize that one style of coaching doesn’t fit everyone”
- “Coaches should learn about positive body image and ways to promote it with their team, as well as promoting healthy habits surrounding the athletes’ bodies”
- “Have regular conversations with your athletes, get to know them personally, recognize when they are ready to be pushed and when they need a break”
- “Talking to a player individually after a game or during half-time and speaking kindly to them or showing that you care can go a long way”
- “Always check in on your players, even the ones who seem happy”
Lastly, the survey asked the participants what had a positive impact on their mental health. Here are some of the responses.
- “Coaches that make a point of caring about you as a person”
- “Having team bonding exercises where we talked about mental health & got vulnerable with each other”
- “Conversations with other high level athletes who have had other mental health struggles like mine”
- “One time, my team was going through a losing streak, we had lost 4 games in a row and were in a rut. We were all feeling so much pressure, and in turn were playing stressed and poorly. Recognizing this, my coach cancelled one of our practices leading up to the next game, and replaced it with yoga and a team dinner. This really helped us to get back on track and in the next game, we beat the number 2 team in my city. We played so much better and were so much looser and had way more fun! Our coach recognized that our team mental health was affecting our play and helped us through it”
- “I once had a talk with a coach who had struggled with mental health. In hearing her story, I was able to understand where she was coming from and also put to words some of the struggles I had been facing”
Ultimately, the survey responses reiterated a few major ideas. 1) Athletes want to be cared about as human beings. 2) Athletes want to be encouraged. 3) Athletes want to be respected. 4) Athletes want and need communication.
- Athletes want to be cared about as human beings. From my own personal experiences, chatting with others, and the survey responses, it has become clear to me that athletes want to be seen as more than just an athlete. They want to make real life connections, and they want their coaches to care about their lives outside of the sport.
- Athletes want to be encouraged. Athletes tend to fixate on their own mistakes for longer than needed. This means that they do not need their coaches to continually focus on them as well. Instead, athletes need to be given constructive criticism and encouragement so that they are able to move forward instead of dwelling on their past mistake.
- Athletes want to be respected. Athletes want their emotions, bodies, and skills to be respected. They want their coaches to acknowledge their emotions and allow them to feel that way. They don’t want to be forced into unhealthy habits or be ridiculed into having a body that the coach thinks is ideal. They want coaches to know that people will be at different skill levels but that each player has a specific role.
- Athletes want and need communication. Communication varies person to person and that needs to be addressed. Coaches need to acknowledge how their players like to communicate so that safe space is there when they need to confide or share.
I think that these four ideas will be the main topics in the course. From here, I will begin researching the major topics to create content. I definitely think that creating the content will be the most difficult part of this project. Things might change along the way, but I am expecting that!
Thanks for reading!
Until next time,
x Paige Hamann