Soccer Without Borders (SWB) People and Culture Coordinator Mia Golin has been selected to participate in Women Win’s Coach In Your Corner Program, a program that supports sports-based youth development practitioners in promoting mental health. Over the course of one year, the cohort will meet to learn how to lead conversations about mental health with adolescent girls, support girls in their mental health journeys, and refer them to other care.
Cohort members come from across the world and across numerous sporting contexts. The exchange of ideas from diverse perspectives will help to propel not only SWB’s work, but help to advance mental health practices in the sports-based youth development sector. When staff like Mia have the opportunity to be a part of programs like this one, they can bring new and innovative ideas and practices back to the greater SWB community, contributing to stronger and more inclusive programs.
Addressing adolescent mental health is vital, especially right now, and especially amongst refugee and immigrant youth. Refugee youth are 12 times more likely to experience major depression than their US-born peers, and the pandemic has only led to even greater instances of mental health complications amongst youth. As SWB continues to provide mental health support for participants, this program will bring valuable insight into best practices and responsible implementation methods. Below, you’ll find an interview with Coach Mia about her interest in the program and her hopes for how it can lead to more positive outcomes.
What is your “why” for working at SWB?
I grew up with a “different” approach to coaching. I had really inclusive coaches who cared more about me and my teammates as people than as players. And I don't think I really started realizing until I got older and started playing more and more teams that there are more coaches out there who don't think that way.
I think that not only is SWB full of those coaches, we also actually know how to teach that and are interested in teaching it and not just holding it for ourselves. So I think the reason I'm here now is to take what we do and how we do it, and make it as accessible to, I guess, every coach. Not just soccer, but any sport.
What attracted you to the Coach in Your Corner Program?
First off, because it was focused on girls. I think there are so many barriers for girls in sport and I think people are starting to pay more attention and focus on it.
But I think sometimes the focus gets so narrowed into the barriers themselves. For example, appropriate clothing. People get really, really focused on, “okay, let's make sure they have sports bras and make sure they have this,” and kind of forget to slow down and think about how even if we're addressing those barriers, the fact that they exist still affects the mental health of these kids. I think I appreciate that the series is solely focused on mental health. It's pretty narrowed down to just that.
And I like that the series takes place over a full year, which I feel is a more appropriate amount of time to address such an issue. I think, you know, you can go to a workshop that lasts a couple hours and you can talk about it, and that's good to get the conversation going. Yeah. But it doesn't mean you have time to really figure out how to address something, or build a toolbox to hand coaches or practice skills for interactions with kids. I believe in hope that this will actually lead to some impact.
What are you most excited to learn about?
In the first meeting we got to determine the content as a group, which I think is part of why it's so long, which is really interesting. So we had breakout rooms, discussions, came back, synthesized, and voted on topics. So the facilitators, which include multiple people with PhDs in various related subjects and counselors are actually creating the content for those subjects. I think probably the one that I think will be the most helpful, is there's gonna be a session that the entire thing plus a follow up focuses on the actual conversations you have with kids.
So practicing when kids say something to you, share something with you, how do you respond? What should your body language be like? What are phrases that are actually helpful? And then the follow up. I guess it's a lot of setting yourself and the kid up for success, not over promising, not putting all the weight on yourself, but still making them feel like you care and that what they're saying is important.
Why do you think incorporating mental health awareness and understanding into programming is important? For both coaches and young people.
I think for coaches it's most important for them to be aware of their own mental health and to take it into account because it's the only way we can make what we do sustainable. Nobody who does what we do lacks motivation, passion, or love for young people, but that means they are at such a high risk for things like burnout and depression. If we want our youth to prioritize their mental health then the best way we can get them to do it is by showing them how we are doing it ourselves.
For young people, they face challenges on and off the field every day. Too often nobody talks to them or teaches them about mental health until they are already deeply struggling. So incorporating a focus on mental health as a normal and consistent part of programming seems like a no brainer. There is already so much trust and care in a well built team it makes for the perfect space to have tough conversations and for youth to learn to build connections that can support them in everything they do.
What do you think is special about spaces like this?
I think that the diversity in coaches in sports means that the experiences we have with kids are even more diverse. There's a few coaches who do skateboarding in England, and so the youth they work with are nothing like the youth that I work with. So to be able to bring in stories and experiences from that many different types of youth to one space I think is pretty special. And then from the coaches themselves, I think the cultural aspect of mental health has been super interesting. Coaches who are originally from France, England, various parts of the United States, and Africa I believe. So it's just layers and layers and layers of everything, which again makes it feel like we're addressing the topic to the depth that it should be addressed and not just superficially.
How do you think this program will contribute to SWB’s programming?
I think everyone designing this training isn't just focusing on the youth, but also the coach in those various contexts. So coach wellbeing, coach health, and I think that that thread is running through. If we're talking about how to have these conversations with kids, the focus is of course on helping the kid end up in the best spot possible, but it's also about how are you taking care of yourself in that moment so that when you walk away from the conversation, you don't feel guilty and you don't feel like things are unresolved. That's kind of the piece I'm hoping to bring back to SWB.
I think it's something we have always valued and cared about and maybe just haven't known how to actually go about prioritizing it. And I feel like we are starting to do that between sending a coach to attend something like this and bringing that information back, designing a few conversation series, and including some external facilitators that also focus on giving coaches the actual tools to take care of themselves.