The Important Role Coaches Play in Youth Development

By FCPS & Fairfax County Government
Healthy Minds
March 12, 2019

Youth sports coaches are in a position to know their athletes incredibly well and to develop a strong and trusting relationship with them. However, this comes with additional responsibility beyond the playing field. Coaches may be among the first to recognize the changes in a young person’s life that could be signs of mental health or other issues. Young athletes should feel comfortable going to a coach with concerns about themselves or others, and coaches should be prepared to act. 

These were among the key themes of a recent symposium on youth sports and mental health hosted by Fairfax Athletes Stand Together (FAST), an initiative of the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services. The symposium included a panel discussion and an audience Q&A session with a distinguished panel of local and national experts. A recording of the event is available on the FAST website. Other resources for coaches on the FAST site include links to free online trainings on suicide prevention, concussion, and child abuse and neglect.

The Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program has developed a number of tools, resources, and initiatives aimed at changing the landscape of youth sports to better support the healthy development of children and youth. Among these are:

  • Project Play Playbook: A set of eight “plays,” or strategies, designed to help every child become physically active through sports.
  • How to Coach Kids: A free 30-minute course on the general principles of coaching children through age 12, along with lots of great resources.
  • Calls for Coaches: A brand new set of recommendations and resources to help youth sports coaches develop personal growth in their players. 

If you are a youth sports coach, take some time to review these resources and consider how you can incorporate them into your efforts. If you are a parent, do the same and be sure to share them with your kids’ coaches and program administrators. 

Healthy Minds is for parents, educators, and community-based providers who are interested in supporting student mental health and wellness. It represents a collaboration between FCPS’ Office of Intervention and Prevention Services and the Fairfax County Government. SUBSCRIBE to Healthy Minds and receive a monthly digest of our most recent articles.