Tournaments can be tremendous fun for players and coaches. There is no better opportunity for building connections, bonding and enjoying all the benefits being together outside of the rink can bring to a team. However, tournaments can also invite stress and uncertainty. The challenges associated with being with new teammates for an extended period of time; being away from home; not meeting expectations and managing the ups and downs that can come with tournament play can sometimes outweigh the benefits.
Fortunately supporting athletes does not change regardless of circumstance. In our experience coaches want their players to be healthy, happy individuals. They want them to thrive both as individuals and as athletes. Tournament kickoff is the perfect time to show your players you care and are there to support them!
Coaching with mental health in mind is something that we all should strive for. Coaches have an incredible opportunity while spending extended amounts of time with their teams to demonstrate their level of care and commitment to healthy team culture.
What does it take to coach with mental health in mind?
1. Listen to what is being communicated
As leaders in sport we spend a lot of time teaching and modelling to those around us through speaking to them - sharing our thoughts, insights and wisdom. We may forget the most important and undervalued communication skill is listening.
2. Demonstrate understanding and empathy
Refrain from fixing! You will be surprised by how much more approachable a situation is if you don’t feel like you must have the solution. Do your best to understand where your athletes are coming from even if it doesn’t make sense to you!
3. Pay attention
Think about how it feels when you know you have someone’s undivided attention – when they are looking at just you, not checking their phone or gathering their stuff to leave.
4. Thank them for talking to you
Let your athletes know that you appreciate them coming to you. Thank them for trusting you with how they’re feeling and what they are dealing with.
5. Check in the next time you see them
Following up with your athletes lets them know you care, that you haven’t forgotten. Whether it’s pulling them aside (privately) and asking how things are or a deliberate “How are you doing today” when you have a moment can go a long way.
It is not your responsibility to fix things or find the solution BUT you have the power to shift their experience based on how you respond.