The Coaching Association of Canada (CAC) is organizing training and educational sessions on mental health for local coaches in Whitehorse.
The training, from March 30 to April 2, is to empower coaches with skills and capacity they need to be able to identify poor mental health issues among their athletes and respond adequately.
“The idea is to improve the mental health literacy of our coaches so that they can be able to recognize positive and negative mental health problems among their athletes,” said Peter Niedre, director, education partnerships at CAC. “Recognizing this will help them respond to poor mental health in athletes.”
The CAC recently launched the National Mental Health and Sport project. With funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the initiative aims to support the mental health of those most impacted by COVID-19.
The organization also has the Mental Health Resource Hub which provides the tools and information to overcome stigma and guide conversations about mental health. The new free online portal offers training and resources for coaches to develop mental health literacy and positive coaching practices to improve performance and well-being in sport.
“We are trying to get coaches and other club administrators to go to this website because there are a lot of resources for them and other training like e-learning modules which have been translated into seven local languages including some indigenous languages,” Niedre said.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately one in four people experienced mental health challenges; this is now one in three since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.
“Mental health has always been a concern with the pandemic and the impact it has had on a lot of people across Canada,” Niedre said. “I think about 48 per cent of youth were impacted by COVID and this had a lot of issues for their mental health. It was more so for those in remote and marginalized communities.”
The CAC said coaches have a huge role to play in ensuring positive mental health of their athletes because their influence, observation and personal connection in working with youth place them in a critical role to support those who are experiencing poor mental health.
“If we make sure that our athletes have positive mental health then they are going to have positive experiences in sports and in life,” Niedre said.
Niedre said coaches should be comfortable discussing mental health with their athletes because they have a direct line to athletes and participants from all levels, especially in marginalized and indigenous communities.
“The coaches can be the first line and motivation, so that if we can improve the mental health literacy of the coaches, they can play a more supportive role for their athletes and be able to respond when mental health issues arise,” he said. “Athletes see their coaches often more than they see their teachers or parents depending on the level of sports they are in.”
Nierdre told the News the association works with the Canadian Centre for Mental Health and Sports which provides all research and insights for the development of their contents. He said a lot of research has been done to understand who has been impacted particularly from COVID.
“Coaches have a huge impact on the youth they work with because they are with them in their daily environment, always interacting and they see how they show up for practice,” he said. “So, this training will help them improve their offering to their athletes on mental health.”
The mental health of coaches is also important, he added. Niedre said with adequate mental health skills, coaches will not only take care of the athletes but themselves.
“It’s very important for them to take care of their mental health because apart from helping the athletes, they still go back to their families at the end of the day,” he said. “We cannot take care of anyone if we don’t take care of ourselves.”
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