Young players need resilience… but it doesn’t grow on trees
Human beings aren’t born with a map or instruction booklet. We bumble along through life, learning lessons from our mistakes. Sometimes listening to the sage advice of others – notably those that are older than us – and sometimes ignoring it blindly, diving headfirst into chaos and for the most part coming out stronger the other side.
Resilience is what develops and helps us as we make our way through these experiences, allowing our ability to recover from difficulties more and more manageable each time. We can grow stronger from the obstacles life throws at us, but day-to-day activities like sport can really strengthen that muscle. To be honest, the sporting environment couldn’t be a better place for it. Taking part in sport covers so many of those essential life skills we all need from a very young age – from teamwork and communication, to problem solving and strategy – so our young players have a great advantage in life from very early on.
Health comes in all shapes and sizes
As many as one in five teenagers may experience a mental health problem in any given year. If you work with young players, you’re in a prime position to support them and help prevent decline into mental illness. Sure, their mental health is not your main responsibility and certainly not yours alone, but with mental ill-health on the increase, sport can play a key role in reducing anxiety and depression in children and adolescents, and you hold the key to that gateway.
So how does sport help with resilience and mental health? Cardio exercise releases feel-good chemicals and increases blood circulation to our brain. Getting involved in either solo or team sport also improves self-confidence and quality of sleep, not to mention providing a good distraction from the daily grind of stress-inducing factors like exams, bullying, fluctuating hormones, the pandemic and more.
Health comes in all shapes and sizes: physical, mental, environmental and social. The physical involves things like diet, exercise and taking care of injuries. When it comes to mental, it’s that ability to cope every day and in times of stress, doing what we can to avoid the slide into mental illness and disorders. Environmental health comes from community and access to green space, which then feeds neatly back in to the other forms of health.
Social health might not be something we consider often, but is vital to keeping us safe and sane. We can get this from having a sense of belonging, as well as tolerance, respect and empathy for others. This is especially important in team sports, if we’re to work together, abide by the rules and let’s face it, win. You’re thrown in to a mix of people, with sometimes the love of the sport the only thing in common, and – much like a work environment – we’re expected to just get on with it and each other. Equally, much like the workplace, there’s that added pressure of success – that of your own and not letting the team down in achieving the organisation’s goals.
Aligning physical and mental health
The beauty of sport is the constant slew of opportunities to push through challenges and never quit (that is, unless your physical or mental health is at risk). You’re faced with the pressure of the game in the moment, and the way that everything can about-turn at the drop of a hat. Young people have the advantage of professional athletes to look up to, people who stay strong in the face of missed penalties, abuse hurled from the crowd and the pressures of striving for pole position. But we aren’t born with a ‘resilience muscle’, it’s something that has to be grown.
As Paralympic athlete Baroness Grey-Thompson once said, “Mental resilience is not something that all participants and coaches automatically have and this should be developed with the same consideration that physical resilience is built.” For sport, physical resilience and mental resilience need to be developed together, much like strength and conditioning work. Align the physical strength with strong mental health, and vice versa.
Growing resilience in your players
Understanding mental health – and especially young people’s mental health – has never been more timely since the pandemic. With all of this in mind, we teamed up with two top psychiatrists specialising in children and adolescents, Dr Sile McDaid and Dr Libby Artingstall of Team Mental Health, to bring you a new online learning course called Building Resilience in Young Players. It’s available to start now and thanks to the beauty of eLearning, can be completed in your own time, at your own pace and wherever in the world you find yourself in. With the world opening up again, we’ve got the renewed ability to travel, but still retain that desire from lockdown to learn something new and expand our understanding on what matters to us.
This low-cost course covers all of the essentials you need to build resilience in your young players, such as:
- What do we mean by resilience?
- How to talk to your young players about mental resilience
- Practical steps you can take to start building resilience
- What barriers exist that can have an effect on a player’s resilience.
Through quizzes, exclusive interviews and more you’ll increase your understanding of health and wellbeing, emotional intelligence and resilience, and how physical activity impacts upon our health and wellbeing. A certificate and CPD points are available on completion of the course and passing a simple assessment.
Learn how to build resilience in your young players today – purchase the course here.
Written by Alice Gunn