You rarely hear athletes say an athletic program prepared them mentally and equipped them with the proper skills and resources to succeed at the next level.
Molding students into elite athletes and scholars is necessary, but developing the person behind the number should be the main priority. As we look at the commitments required for student-athletes to succeed, are athletic programs providing essential tools and resources?
In a big picture view, coaches and athletic directors must also acknowledge other factors impacting student-athletes, such as family and friends' needs or part-time jobs.
Taking this into consideration, the following are essential to every athletic program's student-athlete development strategy.
- Set team/program expectations and what is required to meet these expectations
- Schedule time for student-athletes to develop personal expectations. Identify how they see themselves in this role, now and in the future. Identify their commitment level.
- Implement a learning environment prioritizing daily personal development practices to tackle common student-athlete challenges.
Student-athletes understand that adversity is a part of life, which is often learned through practices and game-day huddle talks. However, many still cannot acknowledge, process, and move forward through academic, athletic, or other life challenges. Consequently, this may lead to potential burnout and concern around depression, anxiety, and suicide rates for student-athletes.
Unfortunately, studies indicate that student-athletes are not likely to seek help from a counselor or psychiatrist following a generational stigma of "Athletes Don't Cry." Therefore, coaches and athletic directors play a critical role in mental health check-ins.
One way is to acknowledge your student-athletes' red flags that they may display through unusual behavior, such as
- Declining grades
- Disengaged from practice and team activities
- Low Confidence
In a conversation with former athlete now coach Raven Gerald, she encourages her athletes to eliminate the stigma that seeking help is a weakness. As coaches, it's imperative to train athletes to take care of their mental well-being and provide accessible resources for them to do so.
Whether a coach, parent, or student-athlete, as a person, when disciplined, able to manage emotions, and willing to face adversity, you produce better results in all areas of your life.
Due to time limits, many coaches are challenged with implementing new student-athlete personal development strategies. However, your student-athlete will still benefit from flexible development resources. Maybe it's a 5-minute on-the-go learning experience that develops a positive routine, helps better processes emotions, and increases self-confidence right in the palm of their hands.
Having a personal development strategy can be flexible, impactful, and life-changing for the student-athletes who come through an athletic program.
The goal is to mold students to be great athletes and scholars while training and equipping them with life skills and the knowledge of how to apply them.
Change The Narrative