NextUp Town Hall: Mental Health & Wellness Take Center Stage
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health awareness and services are now playing an outsized role in American life. This has certainly extended to the youth sports community. With teachers and caregivers sidelined due to stay-at-home orders, organizers and coaches have been thrust into elevated roles. Providing structure, best practices, and tips for parents and players to remain sharp both physically and mentally has never been more important.
Our Town Hall series is a virtual collaboration that aims to deliver valuable information for organizers, coaches, players, and parents. Each installment features subject matter experts, forward-thinking organizers, and youth sports entrepreneurs. For a quick summary of the major themes discussed in our Mental Health episode, continue reading below.
1. Airplane Mode
Dr. Adam Gallenberg of Premier Sports Psychology drew a simple, yet powerful analogy as it relates to mental health. For organizers, coaches, and parents hoping to positively impact youth athletes during this trying time, the first step is self-care. Just as airlines instruct passengers to secure their own oxygen masks before helping others, individuals need to ensure their own mental stability before serving others. Once you’ve established a personal foundation, reaching out is the next step.
Tip: Reach out to your community to make sure they know you’re there for them. Dr. Gallenberg advocates for meeting youth athletes “where they live.” Youth athletes are a ‘Creative Generation’ and interacting with them through TikTok, SnapChat and other streaming services is an ideal way to connect during COVID-19. Read more tips from Premier Sports Psychology here.
2. Navigating Fault Lines In Our Communities
Rebekah Roulier, the COO of Doc Wayne, made it clear during our Town Hall that the stakes are incredibly high right now as it relates to mental health. Our communities are on the brink because traditional mental health services are unavailable. So how can organizers, coaches, and parents fill that void? The first step is providing structure. Routine and physical activity are proven anxiety reducers.
Tip: Programming doesn’t have to be comprehensive to make an impact. Consistent routine, even if it is just 30 minutes per day, can have a positive impact on youth athletes. Once that consistency is put into place, providing emotional support can naturally follow.
3. Removing The Stigma
Tyler Kreitz, the COO of Advnc Lacrosse, spoke to the generational divide as it relates to mental health. The youth sports community has come leaps and bounds, from the “what do you have to complain about?” mentality of yesteryear to an inclusive and welcoming mindset. The biggest role, in Kreitz’s opinion, that adults can play right now is removing the taboo around mental health. Resilience and confidence can be fostered in an environment where mental wellness is encouraged and championed.
Tip: Sharing openly with your team about personal struggles is one way to get started. Following up with mental health resources as well as one-on-one availability is even better. Finally, framing mental health as an extension of performance is a way to tear down barriers.
4. The Tools To Succeed
Dana Burkholder, the Director of Forza1 Volleyball, is a major advocate for HeartMath. Their pioneering technology is helping individuals cope with anxiety, depression and emotional wellness issues. The services are proven to help you reduce stress and anxiety by increasing your inner balance and self-security. This is just one example of the resources available on the open market to both adults and children. Burkholder believes that once you set a solid foundation, based on proven science, you can elevate your emotional intelligence. Regulating your emotions is vital for athletes hoping to achieve a higher level of performance.
Tip: Heartmath is just one resource available. We’ve put together a list of mental health and wellness services here.
These are just a few highlights from the hour-long discussion with our president Jeremy Goldberg. If you’d like to learn more from our four experts, you can stream the video recording by clicking here.