Mental Health Awareness For Coaches

Contributor: Vice President, David Rush 

In today’s post, VP of Challenger Sports, David Rush, writes openly about some of his problems as a youth soccer coach during this devastating pandemic. He will also express the importance of seeking help if you need it and to not feel ashamed for feeling down during this difficult time. It is hard for everyone, but the soccer community is small and always here to help.  

David also serves on a local soccer board and has coached youth soccer at every level. He is, first and foremost, a coach and an administrator. Still, in recent years, he has enjoyed being the parent of two young boys who play and love soccer. 

David Rush, Nov. 23. 2020 

“Before March 1st, I, like many other coaches, was wrapping up winter training and gearing up for heading outdoors with my club and my teams. Game schedules were created, the weather was turning, and on the distant horizon was troubling news about a Virus in Italy that was spreading rapidly. As with any other compassionate person, I was following the news and praying for our most vulnerable people, never imagining for a second that I was watching a storm that would come to consume my life and change everything for every coach in the USA. I remember March 12th vividly when my local club president called and said we need to cancel tonight’s clinics in an abundance of caution. This was the start of what can only be described as a dark time for youth sports. At the time, I had no idea how the days would turn into weeks, weeks into months, and how this would affect my mental health. It was not just a dark time for youth sports; it was a dark time for coaches.

I’m 43 years of age and have been extremely fortunate to make a career out of youth sports. With a passion for sports and working with kids, I started as a Phys. Ed. teacher who was given an incredible opportunity to join a soccer company on the way up. I am considered a success story as a soccer coach, and everyone on the outside sees a strong, stable, and in control personality, which is what I saw looking into the mirror on March 12th. Today my family, friends, and colleagues still see that individual, but what I see is very different, and that is the reason I write this article. 

I was approached by our Marketing Manager Brandon Milburn, who does an excellent job managing our content. He wanted to engage coaches and ask the question: how are they doing? What are they feeling? Like you, I feel selfish thinking like a victim. I’m a soccer coach, not a front line worker. I have been inconvenienced financially, but I will recover. Why do I need a voice? I need a voice because while I will regain my finances, I also need to regain my mental health. I can’t do that without admitting that something is off, and for so many coaches, I’m confident that something is off due to the impact of COVID-19. All great coaches do it for the kids and the game — even our best coaches pale in comparison from an earning point of view compared to any other industry. My point is we don’t coach for the money; we coach for the kids and the love of the game. That is what we have lost, and I can’t be alone in feeling that loss. The feeling of being a part of something bigger than us, a team! For months there was no us, just individuals wondering when the storm would subside. We all know youth sports will roar back. Our kids miss the game as much, if not more, than us. My heart breaks for the kids that have the same profound loss and uncertainty as to when we will rise and start again. Our kid’s mental health is a whole other topic that needs to be flushed out and another factor contributing to my anxieties. They say kids are resilient, and I believe it to be true. Still, I hope our coaches can find the same resilience to get through this unprecedented time because the sport will need you. 

I write this article on the eve of suspicions that a six-week lockdown is coming in just a few short days. The only goal of this article is to let all coaches know that they are not alone and that if you are feeling something is off, then please discuss it openly. Don’t bottle it up and hope for the best. Pick up the phone and call a coach. The soccer community is tight, and I’m confident the conversation will flow, and it will help you. I am also convinced that this article does not just apply to soccer coaches. The loss is real for many, so hopefully, it can be useful for the greater coaching community. 

To finish, I believe we have spent some time in the “eye of the storm.” 

Like others, we were able to get some kids moving, which, of course, helped our own identities feel relevant again. Maybe it’s that simple?  I’m not having mental health issues. I’m having an identity crisis and a feeling of low self-esteem. That sounds better than saying the words mental health?

Mmm!!!

Whatever you want to label it, you should discuss it, which will make the backside of this storm a little easier for all involved.” 

– VP of Challenger Sports – David Rush 

A big thanks to David Rush for taking the time to write this important message. Please feel free to comment below on our blog to provide your feedback or best advice for coaches in the community to find help or comfort during this challenging period. Challenger is always here to help, and feel free to message us on social media if you are interested in raising awareness for mental health through youth sport. 

-Brandon Milburn

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