Do You Want to Be a Trauma-Informed Coach, Teacher or Trainer?
Are you a yoga teacher? Personal Trainer? Coach? If yes, this post was written with you in mind.
During the off-season or during recovery cycles, we often ask our athletes to identify areas of improvement and to work on those areas so that they are better equipped to meet their goals. As movement professionals, we should expect the same from ourselves.
Trauma and mental health can be hard to talk about, especially in a profession that makes a living by helping clients become their best selves. But mental health is crucial to optimal physical performance. Our athletes may not be able to show up and work toward their best physical selves due to mental health concerns.
I know from my personal experience as a teacher and coach, and from the experiences of friends and colleagues that work with athletes, that our clients often treat us like therapists. However, most movement professionals have little to no training in mental health crises and trauma.
A few basic tips:
- Maintain professional boundaries with clients. For me, this means being deliberate and mindful about bodily autonomy and consent during all of my interactions with my clients. For example, if your work involves physical contact, that contact needs to have a specific purpose that benefits and respects the athlete–we shouldn’t touch people just because we can.
- On a similar note: Be aware of your own social privileges and status as an expert in a field. Some of our clients may not feel empowered to speak up when something doesn’t feel right because we are the “expert”, or if we are white or male or cisgender or bigger and stronger. Create a space where the athlete is treated as the authority in their own body and experience.
- Know your own comfort and capacity to deal with crisis. All of us carry our own stories and experiences, which might make it difficult to respond appropriately in a crisis. Or stepping in to help could create a risk to our own physical or mental health. It is perfectly okay if you don’t feel equipped to handle the crises of others and do not want to get involved. It might be a great opportunity to do your own work with a therapist or seek additional training.
- Language matters. If you want to be someone that your athletes can go to in times of distress, how you talk about mental health should consistently identify you as a safe and supportive person. The easiest adjustment to make is the thoughtful and compassionate use of words like “crazy”, “depressed”, “trauma”, and “anxiety”.
- Have a crisis plan. This can be as simple as making sure you have your clients’ emergency contact information and your local crisis hotline number easily available.
If you would like to expand your skills in this area, I offer trainings specifically designed for coaches, trainers, and teachers wanting to learn more about trauma, mental health, and how to respond if a client is in crisis. Please visit my homepage to schedule a training or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.