Coaches learning to look for signs of depression in student athletes

MARION, IL — In the past year, 3.1 million young people between the ages of 12 and 17 have experienced at least one major depressive episode in the U.S. More than 40 coaches attended a Southern Illinois Healthcare Coaches Clinic on Friday to learn the signs of depression to watch out for in their student athletes.

Josh Webb is the athletic director at West Frankfort High School. He said student athletes have a lot on their plate, and coaches should pay close attention to that.

“There’s a lot of pressure. At home, life is different as well. We don’t know what that home life is a lot of times,” said Webb.

Pressures at home combined with stresses of maintaining athletic standards can cause feelings of anxiety and depression for some athletes.

“Depression is a big deal. I see kids quitting sports. They’ll tell you there’s a lot of pressure on their plate, and they’re not enjoying it,” said Webb.

McKendree University Associate Dean of Institutional Effectiveness Tami Eggleston spoke to a room of coaches about the signs of depression in athletes and how they can help.

“When you are coaching young people, the problem is you don’t know if they’re depressed or anxious or just being a young person. I think once a coach gets to know a person, they can tell if that person suddenly changed from acting at 100 percent down to 80 percent. A good coach is going to ask why that player not playing as good as they were just a couple weeks ago,” said Eggleston.

That’s something Webb said he encourages his coaches to do.

“Hone in on each individual kid and kind of get that one-on-one relationship if you get the time. Just know you are there for them, and if they have a question, you can guide them in that direction,” said Webb.

It’s not just about winning. It’s about making sure student athletes are happy and healthy after the game is over.

Eggleston said to prevent student athletes from getting burned out, parents should encourage them take a day off and do something else they enjoy.