Varsity Coaches

It’s much more than just the specific sport; it’s about reinforcing positive attitude and lessons for life.

Signs of Depression?

  • Feeling sad, worried, irritable or angry
  • Lack of enjoyment in life, or troubles enjoying anything
  • Feeling hopeless and worthless
  • Having troubles coping with everyday activities at home, school, or work
  • Problems with sleep, energy, appetite and concentration

With severe depression, a person may even hear voices, or have thoughts of harming themselves or others. Depression is more than normal sadness. A depressed person can’t ‘just snap out of it’. Studies even show actual, physical changes in a person’s brain when they have a clinical depression.


Taking care of the basics can go a long way to helping your athlete to feel better. A healthy body supports a
healthy mind. Try to make sure they:

  • Get enough sleep. Poor sleep can cause lower mood and energy levels.
  • Eat healthy meals and snacks, with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Some research studies suggest that a lack of Omega 3 fatty acids can make depression worse (see our fact sheet on Omega 3 fatty acids).
  • Is physically active. Children and youth need about an hour a day of physical activity, and it’s best if they get exercise outside in the sun. Research tells us that aerobic exercise (exercise that increases the heart rate and breathing) can have an anti-depressant effect.
  • Get enough sunlight. Lack of sunlight (or vitamin D) can trigger depression some people who are sensitive to ‘seasonal depression’.
  • Stay away from street drugs and alcohol. While street drugs can sometimes make youth feel better at first, they can cause more problems and make things worse after a while.
  • Let them know you notice there is something wrong. “I’m noticing that you seem a bit different these days”; “You seem a bit stressed out these days”; “You don’t seem yourself these days.”
  • Express your concern. “I’m worried about you.” “I’m scared that there might be something wrong.”
  • Offer support. “Is there anything I can do to help?” “How can I support you?”
  • Make sure that you talk to the youth, but find ways to still give them choices. “We really need to talk about this – do you want to talk about it now, or later?”
  • Make sure there are still times when you simply have fun, relaxing times with the athletes. “It’s important as a team, we have fun times together. I have some ideas myself, but what things would you like to do?”
  • Help them figure out what stresses s/he is under, and then help to problem-solve ways to deal with those stresses. This usually involves a combination of reducing the stress and/or teaching them ways to cope with those stresses. If you have an adolescent/youth, they may present as less open to your ideas. It could be more helpful to preface the discussion with “I have some ideas about managing stress that may help you, would you like to hear them?”

Things to Avoid Doing

  • Avoid blaming or making them feel guilty for his/her depression. This simply does not help, and just adds to the stress making them feel even more overwhelmed. Worse, it makes them less willing to talk with you.
  • Don’t expect them to just “snap out of it”, anymore than we’d expect someone to snap out of having asthma, diabetes or other conditions.
  • Avoid getting caught into power struggles with a struggling child or youth. Give them a sense of control by giving him/her choices whenever possible.

Depression is a sadness so severe that it interferes with everyday life.

Expand the Reach is a web based resource for coaches, athletes of all levels, parents and community organizations to support Mental Wellness, and early intervention for better performance in sport & life. 

Contact us for more information