Youth in Sports: The Effects of Coaches

1 Aug by HPA/LiveWell Clinical Psychology

Recent studies show there are approximately 45 million youth in sports (aged 5-18) in this country.  Sports can be a vehicle of positive development in terms of personal growth, confidence, and overall well-being.  Unfortunately, many children in sports have negative sporting experiences, which end up hindering their development. And a big part of what determines the outcome is the role of the coach.  At HPA/LiveWell in Albany, New York, we work to educate parents and caregivers about the role youth coaches play in children’s lives, as well as the warning signs a child might display as a result of unhealthy coaching styles.

The Role of a Coach in Youth Sports

Coaching at the youth level comes with tremendous responsibility. For youth in sports, a coach is someone they respect, look up to, and strive to be like. Additionally, these young athletes tend to understand and interpret their athletic experience based on the relationship they form with their coach. Coaching can affect a young athlete’s motivation, sense of self, and confidence.

Youth in Sports: Positive vs. Negative Effects of Coaches

Coaches often do not realize the immense influence they have on the mental health of athletes, especially young athletes. Ideally, a successful coach is a successful motivator. Successful youth coaches promote connection, team spirit, and working together for a common goal.  Additionally, through the use of positive reinforcement, coaches promote young athlete’s self-esteem and confidence.

Unfortunately, not all youth coaches live up to that ideal. Many coaches encourage (or even instigate) harmful competition amongst players, which can have lasting effects on a young athletes’ developing self-worth, body image, and overall mental health.

Signs that Your Child is Experiencing Negative Effects of Coaching

If you are a parent of an athlete, you know it is common for youth in sports to experience mood changes from time to time, especially after a particularly difficult loss. But if you are noticing other changes in your child, or feel concerned how their sports involvement may be affecting them, there are certain signs you can look out for:

  • Increased anxiety (especially around sports practice, games, etc.).
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities or friends.
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs to escape feelings of low worth.
  • Increased physical ailments with no identifiable cause (stomachaches, headaches).
  • Increased irritability and/or anger outbursts.
  • Changes to eating and/or sleeping habits.
  • Making negative comments about their body and/or ongoing comparison of body shape and size to others.
  • Increased negative self-appraisal of athletic achievement or ability.

Although these signs tend to be scary for parents, there is help out there for your child.

To find out more about the effects of coaches on youth in sports, or to learn about the child services provided at HPA/LiveWell in Albany, New York, contact us at 518-218-1188.