Being a student athlete is the highlight of school for many teenagers. For some, it’s the game-winning goal they’ll never forget or the many hours they get to spend having fun and practicing with their teammates and friends. And the benefits couldn’t be better — participation in sports can improve academic achievement and overall self-esteem, and athletes are more likely to engage in health-promoting behaviors than their non-athlete peers. 

For students to get the most out of their time when participating in school sports, there are many ways coaches and athletic trainers can encourage overall athlete wellness. Here’s how to ensure mental and physical health comes first during the season.  

Preventing and Dealing with Sports Injuries 

Without a doubt, the more physical activity you engage in, the more likely you are to suffer from an injury. While adults are more in tune with listening to their bodies, kids are more likely to push past the warning signs and get out on the field too soon after suffering an injury. 

Coaches and athletic staff must have an eagle eye for injuries and ensure that students are fully healed before returning to the field. Many students will say they’re okay because they want to keep playing, even when they’re not. 

Establishing communication between you and your students is crucial. Ensure they know that no matter how insignificant they think the injury is, they will be open and honest about it. 

Since you likely have many youth athletes to supervise, it’s vital to have a system in place to track injuries and create detailed treatment plans. This ensures that nothing goes unnoticed, and that physical health remains a top priority. 

Encourage Holistic Health and Athlete Wellness 

How a student performs on the field has to do with way more than practice and training. It begins with what they had for breakfast, what time they went to sleep, and their extracurricular activities. 

Provide students with nutrition training so they know exactly what they need to fuel their bodies. Exercise and body image should also be a concern, as the NCAA reports that 45% of female athletes try to lose weight while 40% of male athletes try to gain weight. Try to have healthy snacks and drinks accessible at practices and games, and keep the door open for communication from students and parents.  

Sleep also plays a pivotal role in overall athlete wellness. Teenagers need about nine to ten hours of sleep every night, but 70% to 89% of teens don’t get enough sleep, according to The Children’s Hospital of Colorado. Yet sleep can help improve accuracy and reaction times, increase endurance, improve cognitive function, reduce injuries, and lead to a better overall performance on the field. 

Check to see if students are relying on stimulants such as energy drinks or coffee to stay energized. If they seem tired during the day, connect with their teachers and talk to parents to ensure they’re getting enough hours of sleep at home. 

Preventing Athlete Burnout 

According to a 2023 NCAA study, 44% of female and 17% of male athletes felt overwhelmed by all they had to do. Many also felt mentally exhausted.  

It’s up to the coach and athletic staff to establish a positive team culture. Students are much more likely to express their personal concerns in a positive environment. 

A big part of that is challenging the idea that you have to give it your all, and that success only comes in winning. We’re often told to give 110%, but this leads to a highly toxic mindset for student athletes. 

To prevent athlete burnout, don’t feed this mindset. Teach the importance of self-care, and that they should never feel guilty for resting. Encourage them to have outlets outside of the team and time spent on other hobbies and with other people. 

Anxiety and Athletics 

The 2023 NCAA study also reports that anxiety and athletics are a concern, as 29% of females and 9% of males reported feeling overwhelming anxiety. Due to the still present stigma surrounding mental health, many will try to hide this anxiety, which can worsen symptoms. 

It’s important that coaches and trainers do their best to avoid adding stress and anxiety for students. Set a realistic training schedule and avoid putting pressure on students. Many students face time constraints with busy practice schedules and need time outside of practice to maintain their social lives, keep up with academics, and have rest time. Make time spent on sports fun and a safe outlet for students.  

Keeping Up with Academic Requirements 

It’s easy for students to get so wrapped up in athletics that they think that’s the most important thing to focus on. In reality, academics must still be a top priority for everyone, staff included. When athletes fall behind on their studies, all aspects of their wellness begin to slip, too. 

Students shouldn’t have to sacrifice academics or sports for the other. As a coach, help them find a balance, offering concessions if necessary. Encourage students to bring work with them when there’s an away game and to get as much work done before practice as possible so they don’t have to stay up late to do homework.  

It’s also important to check in with teachers. A collaborative process of a student’s participation in school and after-school activities ensures that nothing slips through the cracks and that the student can continue to enjoy both facets. A student health record solution like Magnus Health allows for collaboration between departments with organized, easily accessible student notes. 

Maintaining Team Mentality in Support of Athlete Wellness

The beauty and true joy of being a youth athlete all come down to the team mentality. Having a support team at their ready, be it their fellow athletes or the staff watching from the sidelines, shows students that they’re never alone and are better together.  

Team mentality should extend itself off the field as well. With Magnus Health, you can facilitate collaboration between the athletic department, counseling office, and families. This allows for the easy and secure exchange of information for parties with access and ensures that all aspects of student athlete wellness are taken care of. Contact us to book a demo and eliminate the need for paper records.