Trauma-Sensitive and Responsive Coaching

Trauma-Sensitive and Responsive Coaching

Mary A. Hansen (Robert Morris University, USA), Brooke Turner (John Carroll University, USA), and Armani Davis (Shady Side Academy, USA)
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7473-7.ch008
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This chapter discusses the prevalence and impact of trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on today's youth. Information related to the impact of previous trauma and sports-related trauma on youth athletes is discussed. The benefits of sports and physical activity in combatting the effects of trauma are presented. Information about trauma-informed models, pedagogies, and coaching practices are presented in order to highlight the importance of awareness and implementation of trauma-sensitive coaching pedagogies to help youth athletes including those who have been impacted by trauma or ACEs thrive.
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This chapter addresses the importance of trauma-sensitive athletic coaches, and introduces several pedagogical approaches and practices from educational settings and existing coaching models that athletic coaches can implement for their trauma-exposed athletes. Initially, recent statistics related to trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are presented. Less information is known about the prevalence of ACEs for student athletes, but available literature suggests athletes are not immune to the negative effects of ACEs and other traumatic events. Additionally, sports-related injuries and concussions can impose new trauma on athletes, impacting their mental health, emotional well-being, and identity. At the same time that recent research suggests athletes may be at risk for negative effects of trauma and ACEs, ample research also documents many benefits associated with sports and physical activity on cognitive and academic performance, as well as mental and social-emotional health of youth. Thus, remaining active in athletics can improve the health and well-being of young athletes. Coaches and other professionals involved in sports who are aware and engaged have the opportunity to help athletes heal and thrive. To that end, this chapter addresses the importance of awareness and implementation of trauma-sensitive coaching pedagogies.

The objectives of this chapter are for the reader to be able to:

  • 1.

    Describe the characteristics of trauma-impacted athletes.

  • 2.

    Describe statistics related to trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) for today’s youth.

  • 3.

    Describe the benefits of sport and physical activity on cognitive performance and mental and social-emotional health.

  • 4.

    Describe the importance of trauma-sensitive and -responsive athletic coaching.

  • 5.

    Describe the attributes and characteristics of trauma-sensitive and -responsive athletic coaching.


Trauma And Adverse Childhood Experiences (Aces)

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) (2020, para. 1), a traumatic event “is a shocking, scary, or dangerous experience that affects someone emotionally.” Traumatic events include natural disasters, accidents, illness, abuse, or assault (Perry, 2007). Related, an adverse childhood experience (ACE) is a potentially traumatic event that occurs in children under 18 that can include events of violence, abuse, growing up in a family with mental health or substance use problems, or experiencing the death of a family member; and can result in longer term mental and physical health problems (CDC, 2020). Several large scale survey studies show that between half and two-thirds of today’s population self-report the minimum of one ACE in the first 18 years of their lives (CDC, 2020; Felitti et al., 1998). Additionally, a growing body of research reflects ACEs as a critical public health issue (Gerrity & Forcarelli, 2008; Sacks & Murphey, 2018).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Coaching Philosophy: A coaching tool that articulates a coach’s values, approaches, and goals in athletic coaching.

Trauma-Informed Pedagogy: Pedagogical practice that recognizes the presence and prevalence of trauma and its effects, using informed and evidence-based strategies in teaching.

Trauma-Informed Coaching/Trauma-Sensitive Coaching: The practice of understanding the presence and symptoms of trauma and responding with recognition, compassion, using informed and evidence-based strategies to actively prevent re-traumatization.

Trauma-Informed Approach: An approach guided by six principles of safety, trustworthiness and transparency, peer support, collaboration and mutuality, empowerment and choice, and cultural, historical, and gender issues.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood.

Trauma: An emotional response to a distressing event or events that can negatively impact individuals’ ability to cope, reactions, and personal feelings.

Trauma-Informed Systems: Trauma-informed systems as those that highlight organizational culture and integrate the four Rs of realization, recognition, response, and resist re-traumatization.

Athletic Identity: The amount individuals associate themselves with sport and the athlete role.

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