Sports Psychologist Encourages Area Coaches to be Aware of Players' Mental Health

Mar 29, 2019

The featured speaker at Friday's Southern Illinois Healthcare Coaches Clinic encouraged area high school coaches to focus less on wins and losses and more on the mental health of their student-athletes.

Tami Eggleston is a sports psychologist at McKendree University. She says anxiety disorders affect 25-percent of children between 13 and 18 years old.

Eggleston says the language coaches use is important because student-athletes may not fully understand why they're feeling overwhelmed.
"If you say that you're stressed, maybe your brain isn't really stressed, maybe you're just busy. I think it's important that we use the right language. So, if an athlete comes to you and says, 'I'm stressed.' Really say, 'Are you stressed or are you just busy, because you have a lot of awesomeness in your life.'"
She says coaches need to watch out for player burnout from factors outside of their sports activities.
"You start to throw in the fact that they're probably on social media, taking a lot of time on that, maybe not sleeping as well as they could, maybe not eating as well as they could. So, you put all that together and you can really have a stressed-out young person."

Eggleston's advice for coaches is to give their players mental breaks during the season and stress they get more sleep.

She says young people today are considered more unhappy and stressed-out than generations of the past. In fact, it's estimated as many as 3 in 10 people younger than 25 suffer from anxiety and/or depression.
"We probably just honestly don't know the exact number. But, I would argue anytime an athlete or a person just feels like this doesn't seem normal and it's been lasting for maybe more than a few months that might be a sign that it's a little more extreme."

Eggleston says more awareness about this issue is a good thing.
"The good news in this sad talk about depression is that young people - and people in general - are more likely to get help today. It doesn't have the stigma that it used to have."
Eggleston says it's easy to find the things in our lives that make us sad or stressed. She encourages everyone to search for the joy in their lives.