Trauma Informed Sports Coaching

I always loved sports – there’s something magical about people following their dreams and pushing themselves to be their best & sport is one of the few chances we get to watch that (although they are not the only ones, just the most visible)

Sport is also really good at developing better ways to do better & TIS coaching is one.

A lot of trauma is hidden and the nature of unresolved trauma causes children to feel shame that they can then carry into adulthood and will do all they can to hide. This means you may never know who at your training has trauma in their past. TIS coaching involves understanding how trauma affects the brain & a person’s ability to engage, but it isn’t therapy or even talking about trauma. It’s about adapting your style to support people in the way they need to excel. All this ‘to succeed you just need to….’ is BS, one style does not fit all – you just lose all the very talented people it doesn’t fit.

What people often misunderstand is that people are always giving 100% motivation & energy to life, it’s just that some have to use most of that to merely survive and have little left for practise. The ones a coach may think can’t hack the pressure are often already dealing with more pressure than the coach could hack before they turn up at practise. If a coach doesn’t get this then it can lead to a child/ adult experiencing trauma and then being penalised and excluded from what they love (as if they haven’t suffered enough) because the coach judges them as lazy/ undisciplined instead of helping them get to the point that they can give more (& that doesn’t take much).

As I said – coaches don’t need to be trauma experts or therapists, just be aware of how their behaviour affects others, and use that; it’s small changes that include everyone & will benefit all. They can, and should, encourage competitiveness but do it in a way that helps everyone grow and doesn’t further damage some. This doesn’t mean everyone will excel – that may not be their dream & they will drop out by choice & not shame, leaving the coach with all the best (rather than some of) at higher levels.

We know a safe adult is the most important factor in helping people heal from trauma and a coach can be that in someone’s life.

We also know that, done right, sport can help the brain recover from trauma by the small doses of stress and regulating activities like rhythm and repetition.

On top of which all the research shows that ‘grit’ is not what helps people win, a lot is down to emotional regulation – which also helps heal the damage of trauma.

So TIS coaching is about using what works best to help all people excel, not just those we find easiest. And not only can it helps save lives it also releases a lot of talent we currently lose. This includes those who do do well then seem to sabotage their career – ignoring trauma can only get you so far.

For me – ensuring we don’t lose talent before it grows, or before it reaches it’s peak, is reason enough to be open to this.

This whole area is one I am starting to learn about, but here are some resources you can look at:

The Centre for Justice & Healing through Sport (I love this so much)

Their boss is here on a 30min podcast which explains better than I can

Why Trauma Informed Sport is vital

Dr Bruce Perry (the King of TI work) runs training specific to Sport