Abstract: Opportunities for Social Workers to Support School-Based Sport Coaches: Findings from a State-Wide Survey (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

267P Opportunities for Social Workers to Support School-Based Sport Coaches: Findings from a State-Wide Survey

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Samantha Bates, PhD, Assistant Professor, The Ohio State University, OH
Sydney Mack, BA, MSW/PhD Student, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Dawn Anderson-Butcher, PhD, Professor, Ohio State University, OH
Background and Purpose: School-based sport coaches often receive training on basic health practices, safety procedures, and coaching fundamentals. Research, however, suggests that coach training in positive youth development (PYD) and social-emotional learning (SEL) can improve youths’ motivation, satisfaction, and continued participation in sport (Falcão et al., 2012; Camiré et al., 2020). Among coaches that are teachers, social workers, or school staff, these trainings are often included in school-based professional development requirements. However, a recent study of youth sport coaches found that 70% of school-based coaches were non-school employees and had limited backgrounds in education and child development (Anderson-Butcher et al., 2020). As such, coaches that are non-school employees may need additional support, training, and guidance in learning PYD-SEL practices transferrable to sport. We conducted a state-wide survey of school-based sport coaches to explore their training backgrounds, interests, and current practices to explore this topic further.

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.