Friends, Family and Beyond:  How Other Adults Can Help Student Athletes


Student athletes are capable of balancing challenges on and off the field.  But because of the challenges they face almost daily, they are also more likely to suffer from stress and anxiety. Also, sometimes it’s hard for parents of athletes to notice developing problems in their children because their kids sometimes feel they can’t show weakness at home.

This is where you, the caring adult, come in. If you’re worried about a young athlete in your life, the most important thing you can do is talk to him. Be genuine and open and ask questions like “How are you doing?” and “Anything you want to talk about?” Try asking things that specifically relate to what you know is going on in the child’s life, such as “It must be so hard with regionals coming up and finals just around the corner. How’s that going?” or “It must be a lot of pressure balancing school and sports, huh? How are you handling it?”

If the child is not ready to talk, remind her that you’ll be happy to listen when she is. Promise to check in and then do just that, by making phone calls, sending e-mails and dropping in for visits. Let the child know you’re there for her – and that you will never judge her for being sad or struggling with something.

But if you’re truly worried and feel there’s a real problem, like drug use or depression, it’s better to be safe than sorry. While you want to maintain the trust you’ve developed with the child, his/her safety must come first. Contact his or her parent to share your concerns and see if there’s any way you can help.

If you have regular interaction with a child, whether as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, coach, or mentor, you’ll be able to observe changes in behavior that could signify a mental health issue or problem with drugs and alcohol.   

(thanks to The Partnership for a Drug-Free America for this message.  For more information about signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol use, please visit the Partnership website at

Please forward to your networks. Thanks for all you do!  If you’d like to comment, please email


Community Coalition for Healthy Youth

c/o Tompkins County Youth Services Dept.

320 W. ML King Jr./State St., Ithaca