Information for Coaches

Great coaches are those who take the time to understand, who help mitigates every athlete’s weaknesses, and build on every athlete’s strengths. Click here to learn about the workshops available for coaches!

Do No Harm is a basic rule for anyone who takes on the role as coach. Each and every one of us are doing the best we can with the tools we have been given. Nonetheless, we are all human. It can take time to build up the skills required to handle difficult coaching situations in a way that facilitates resilience for all athletes. Meaning that we have all done harm and will likely do harm again in the future. But, nonetheless, the goal is to create a safe space that cultivates growth.

Flexibility is paramount, especially when learning, adapting, and utilizing differentiated instruction to suit each athlete. The rules are consistently changing and coaches are responsible for staying up to date. A coach’s goal should be to bring out the best in all their athletes, including the athletes that are wired differently.

Promoting Inclusivity & Diversity of ALL Bodies

Recent research highlights the role of coaches in the transmission of weight and body-related attitudes and pressures and are the key agent in the development of body ideals, importance of body function and appearance, and weight-related pressures.

            -  Sabistan, C. M., Lucibello, K. M., Kuzmochka-Wilks, D., Koulanova, A., Pila, E., Sandmeyer-Graves, A., & Maginn, D. (2020). What’s a                    coach to do? Exploring coaches’ perspectives of body image in girls sport. Psychology of Sport & Exercise: 48.                             

                doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2020.101669

Explicit and implicit biases that there is an ideal body type is communicated through commentary and behavior. It is incredibly important as a coach to work through any internalized fatphobia and continuously revaluate whether any bias is seeping into your coaching. To learn about internalized fatphobia and the truth about body weight, click here.

It's important to cultivate an environment that fosters inclusion by learning about each other’s cultural backgrounds, lives, and interests outside skating. Diversity and inclusivity in sports allow us to value and respect one another in a wider society. It also gives our youth the confidence to succeed in other areas of life. Encourage open communication to optimize opportunities for discussion of issues related to discrimination and inclusion. Diversify Ice, Brown Body, Figure Skating Diversity & Inclusion Alliance, Color of Ice Production, Figure Skating in Detroit, and Figure Skating in Harlem are some organizations working to diversify the skate world.

What are some things you can do to help your athletes stay motivated and resilient?

COVID-19 has resulted in cancelation of entire seasons, termination of big competitions, and dismantled training routines. As coaches and athletic trainers work to maintain athletes’ health and fitness amidst the COVID-19 protocols, the emotional rollercoaster persists and the future remains uncertain.

  • Help your athletes craft a training plan. Setting aside time for strength and endurance training, and incorporating stretching and mental strength exercises will help them stay motivated and sharp. Maintaining routine helps with anxiety

  • Help your athletes find ways to connect with each other. Having regular social connection is critical during this time of isolation. Going from training every day together to isolation from your teammates is a deep loss. Setting up a time for your team of athletes to connect with each other virtually can aid in feelings of loneliness. The connection between teammates is unlike any other friendship, so setting aside time for your athletes to get together as a team virtually can be grounding during this time of upheaval; especially for those struggling to reach out for help.

  • Set a time aside to virtually watch a movie or clip related to your sport with your athletes. Then, begin a discussion on what you watched. Keeping that connection and collective love for the sport going, despite being isolated from one another, will help athletes stay motivated.

  • Help your athletes focus on the long term by having them set goals beyond this upcoming season.

  • Maintain an open and honest flow of communication. Check in with your athletes on how they are feeling and how you can support them. Reassure your athletes that although many factors are unknown, you are figuring this out together and will make modifications to the plan as the situation evolves.

  • Practice and model self-care the best you can.

  • Take the time to learn about the latest issues in sports psychology. Learn about depression, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, and anxiety. By knowing the warning signs of different mental illnesses, one can better identify an at-risk athlete and redirect them to the help they need. Research shows that repeated sessions of expressive writing could improve an athlete's experiences in relation to their evolving identity during the pandemic.

How to Better Support the LGBTQ+ Community

"It's important to recognize that efforts to reduce prejudice and greater acceptance of LGBT individuals in sport are not universal, we are in the midst of this change and contemporary sport climates range from complete inclusion to open hostility."

            - Coufal, T. (2018). Inclusion of LGBTQ student-athletes on NCAA sport teams: Perspectives from student

              athletes. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences of Engineering: 79(8).

Empirical evidence suggests that sexual prejudice is associated with sport identification, but the type of association depends on the sport. Evidence suggests that individuals who express sexual prejudice are likely to promote and identify with activities and behaviors considered masculine and aggressive (Eichstadt et al., 2020). Aesthetic sports lack many of the key masculine characteristics and does not represent a sport through which one might distance the self from homosexuality (Lee & Cunningham, 2016). Despite this, many athletes face discrimination and homophobia daily.

Show respect through your words and actions by using inclusive, gender-neutral language. When you hear an anti-LGBTQ and sexist slur, point it out. Athletic departments should have LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination policies and inclusive code. Asking students to sign a team respect pledge and posting guidelines for appropriate athlete interactions are all considered best practice.

Athletes Mental Health

When an athlete gets injured, there is a team of medical personnel employed to ensure a speedy, successful recovery. However, when an athlete struggles with mental health issues, the approach is very different and can leave many feeling isolated. 

Athletes face ongoing stress and pressures of training and competition on a regular basis. The pressures can come from parents, coaches, friends, teammates, or oneself. Negative and verbal comments toward young athletes are seen in increase psychological stress and burnout. To read more about the difference between support vs. pressure, click here.


Physical injuries, overtraining, and poor performance can also leave the athlete with the potential to develop feelings of depression and anxiety. Having an exclusively athletic identity of self-worth can lead to potential mental health issues, especially when self-worth is tied to performance and being on top of the podium.


In addition, retirement from athletics subject individuals to a unique set of challenges and circumstances that can make a person vulnerable to feelings of depression or anxiety. Retirement from sport is perhaps the most important risk factor for suicide in professional athletes. Every athlete experiences an array of different feelings when they leave their sport, and many times that is extreme grief and a sense of loss and purpose. The process of retirement is difficult and it’s in this time that social support and communication are vital to the mental health of athletes.

In our society, mental health has a stigma that is tied into weakness. It’s an ongoing issue in society and is heightened even more in athletes. Athletes are often perceived as physically healthy and “strong” individuals, with the ability to face challenges on their own. This results in a lot of athletes neglecting to seek help and increases stigma surrounding mental health. It’s important to recognize that getting help will most likely improve, not damage, one’s self confidence.

It’s also important to recognize that athletes don’t have to maintain the “super-human” identity. Athlete’s don’t have to “handle things” alone and reaching out for help does not make one less of an athlete. In fact, it makes someone a good athlete. Psychological ailments are equally as important as physical ailments because your mental health impacts your performance too. For everyone, especially athletes, seeking out mental health assistance is a proactive and brave decision.

Coaches are not doctors, nutritionists, physical therapists, psychotherapists, or psychiatrists. If you feel that an athlete is struggling with a physical ailment or mental illness, it is critical to refer the athlete to a licensed professional. There is no harm in referring them to elsewhere as a precaution. It can be helpful to have a list of licensed professionals in your area that specialize in athletes.


List of Helplines: 

Dating Abuse and Domestic Violence:

loveisrespect: 1-866-331-9474

Depression & Suicide:

National. Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386

Eating Disorder Hotline:

National Eating Disorder Association: 1-800-931-2237

General Crisis:

Crisis Text Line: Text SUPPORT to 741-741

Mental Illness Hotline:

National Alliance on Mental Illness: 1-800-950-6264

Sexual Assault Hotline:

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network: 1-800-656-4673


References

Athletes Get Real About Mental Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.psychotherapyworker.org/blog/details/1437/athletes-get-real-about-mental-health 

Hudson, J., Hiripi, E., Pope, H., & Kessler, R. (2007) “The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication.” Biological Psychiatry, 61, 348–358.

Zhao, Y., Encinosa, W. Update on Hospitalizations for Eating Disorders, 1999 to 2009. HCUP Statistical Brief #120. September, 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. Retrieved from www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb120.pdf

Ziegler, P.J., Khoo, C.S., Sherr, B., Nelson, J.A., Larson, W.M., & Drewnowski, A. (1998). Body image and dieting behaviors among elite figure skaters. International Journal of Eating disorders, 24, 4.