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Mental health, COVID-19, and sport-based youth programming

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Copyrights: Doc Wayne Youth Services

Mental health, COVID-19, and sport-based youth programming

The COVID-19 crisis has made it clear that we need widespread awareness, kindness and the ability to leverage creative solutions, like sport to tackle health concerns including mental illness.

While the true global impact of COVID-19 is yet to be seen, it is clear that a secondary impact of pandemic proportions has occurred simultaneously. Anxiety has swept over Americans. While we work diligently to protect our loved ones and determine the best path forward, it is important to highlight how this pandemic is affecting our youth.

It’s true that some level of anxiety helps motivate people to make change and act; however, many people are now experiencing anxiety at a level that is impacting what they think about when they wake up every morning and how they go about their day. Many people are truly afraid, are not dealing well with the unknown and are feeling vulnerable.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides and becomes a mere chapter in our history books, Doc Wayne Youth Services hopes we remember it was not simply this one point in time that it was acceptable to be anxious.

Mental health impacts everyone, is an ongoing pandemic, and is worthy of the world’s attention. 

20% of youth have mental health concerns, but 80% do not receive the services they need (Mentalhealth.Gov). Youth struggle to access treatment due to stigma, transportation, and cost. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love recently reflected on the Coronavirus and mental health: “Through the game of basketball, we have been able to address major issues and stand together...I’m concerned about the level of anxiety people are feeling.” Kevin Love knows the power of sport in addressing issues of great magnitude. For all people, but especially our youth, we need widespread awareness, kindness, and the ability to leverage creative solutions, like sport, to tackle health concerns, including mental illness.

The major professional leagues may have suspended play, but sport is still a common language that bonds our communities and helps kids understand the world around them. Doc Wayne harnesses the power of sport to provide innovative, therapeutic supports for youth which are aimed to destigmatise mental health and normalise therapy. Traditionally, our clinicians or mentors, known as coaches, provide sessions in-person at schools, community sites, and residential centers. Our team challenges the norm of traditional therapy by reframing a clinician as "coach" and translating mental health skills into sport-based language.

Because of COVID-19, our team has quickly pivoted to provide virtual telehealth services so youth and families can process and persevere through adversity from the comfort of their own home. Since social distancing mandates have been put in place, our team has completed over 500 telehealth phone or video calls.

But how do we leverage the power of sport when we can't meet on a field or court? The Doc Wayne coaches are known for their innovation and flexiblity. Any coach knows that you always have to be on your toes, ready to adjust the gameplan. We've noticed an uptick in mental health concerns due to COVID-19 and a number of sport-based youth development (SBYD) organisations have reached out for support. Like anything, we know overcoming COVID-19 and the associated mental health issues will require a team effort.

To strengthen our joint approach, Doc Wayne is starting a "Kids & COVID-19" webinar series. This will be an online platform to learn, discover, and promote healthy tactics to support our youth during this pandemic. The first free webinar took place on 29 April 2020 at 1pm EST and provided guidance and tangible tools for the youth sports community. If you or someone you know is interested in attending this webinar, please register online. All sessions will be archived here for viewing.

If you have or see needs Doc Wayne is uniquely suited to address during COVID-19, would like to collaborate on a webinar to help others during this time, or have a media inquiry please contact COO Rebekah Roulier, LMHC at Additionally, if you or someone you know is seeking mental health support at this time, please email

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Monday, April 27, 2020 - 14:17