Whilst coaching can be challenging at any level, it is thought to be even more demanding when working with elite athletes due to the high-stakes nature of high-performance sport and the variety of stressors that a coach is exposed to on a daily basis. Despite this, the wellbeing of the coach often comes a distant second to that of the athlete. In fact, whilst the mental health of elite athletes has received much media attention in recent years (e.g., Serena Williams, Brian O’Driscoll, Virat Kohli), considerably less has been said regarding the mental health of the coaches and support staff who work within the same high-performance sport settings.
A recent study looking at the prevalence and correlates of mental ill-health in elite coaches and high-performance support staff (physiotherapists, nutritionists, strength and conditioning coaches, etc.) found:
- 100 of the 252 participants reported mental health symptoms at a level that would warrant professional treatment
- 35 reported experiencing high to very high psychological distress
- 44 reported moderate to severe sleep disturbance
- 105 reported ‘potential risky’ alcohol consumption.
In short, research indicates that athletes are not the only individuals in a sport domain who are susceptible to developing mental health difficulties. Elite coaches are at least as likely as elite athletes to experience some form of mental health difficulty, yet coach wellbeing is often undervalued in comparison.
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