Methods: The current study was conducted among a sample of 5,219 school-based coaches in one large, Midwestern state. A majority of participants were male (88%), White (89%), and had over ten years of coaching experience (64%). Coaches reported working with student-athletes participating in over 30 different sports. Moreover, 25% of coaches were teachers or school staff. Meanwhile, 75% of coaches were non-school employees. Participants completed a self-report cross-sectional survey assessing their confidence levels, participation in past coach trainings, and future training interests across four key areas: (a) coaching sport skills, techniques, and tactics; (b) creating a positive youth sport environment (i.e., promoting sportspersonship, teamwork); (c) utilizing sport psychology principles (i.e., mindfulness, mental imagery); and (d) responding to youth’s social-emotional needs (i.e., addressing mental health, identifying off the field stressors).
Results: Overall, preliminary analyses indicate coaches reported feeling confident (75% to 87% agreed or strongly agreed) in their ability to coach sport skills, techniques, and tactics and create a positive youth sport environment. Comparably, most of our sample reported past participation in training focused on teaching sport skills, promoting sportspersonship, and developing athletes into leaders. In contrast, coaches reported feeling less confident (51% to 64% agreed or strongly agreed) in their ability to utilize sport psychology principles and support student-athlete mental health. Coaches also reported a high interest in training focused on mental health, mindfulness, performance anxiety, and creating an inclusive team culture.
Conclusion and Implications: Given mass participation rates and universal appeal, the potential for school-based sport to impact child and adolescent health and well-being is vast. However, positive experiences in sport often are dependent on interactions with coaches. Given on-going and persist mental health needs in schools, this presentation will summarize findings from our state-wide survey of sport coaches and describe how results informed the development of eight “Coach Beyond” training modules. In addition, we will discuss the importance of these results for improving the youth sport environment and distill ways social workers can help meet the needs of youth sport coaches via training and professional development activities, as well as strengthening linkage and referral systems among schools, mental health services, and school-based sport.