Published on October 23, 2023
In an October 18th webinar, “The Power of the Pathway – Exploring the Relationship Between Sports Performance, Academic Achievement, and Mental Health,” Honest Game brought together an impressive panel of experts, including Ben Zobrist, former Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series MVP, John Harrison, VP at Champion Forward, and Stephanie Bernthal, M.Ed., PC, a former NCAA DI Head Coach and Mindset Coach for Sports Industry Professionals and Mental Health Consultant at Beyond Sport Coaching. Together, along with Joyce Anderson, COO and Co-Founder of Honest Game, the group engaged in a robust, hour-long conversation to equip high school administrators and coaches with tools to address the mental health challenges faced by today’s student-athletes.
Here are a few key takeaways:
Failure is inevitable in an athlete’s journey.
To open the conversation, John Harrison asked Ben Zobrist about the different levels of performance pressure he’d experienced, and Zobrist highlighted ‘that internal pressure often far surpasses external pressure’. His advice to young athletes was to stay focused and mindful. “Failure is a part of the process,” he emphasized, and the ability to deal with doubt and setbacks is crucial not only in sports but also in life beyond the field.
As the discussion continued, Zobrist candidly shared experiencing anxiety and depression, even after winning the 2016 World Series, which helped underscore the importance of having the right tools to navigate mental health challenges at every level. This is why Champion Forward was created, to help athletes care for their mental health while still succeeding in sports.
Additionally, Zobrist stressed the responsibility of adults – athletic directors, parents, and coaches – in creating a space for mental health dialogue to take place alongside the usual discussions of physical health.
As the conversation progressed, Stephanie Bernthal shared her insights on nurturing an athlete’s development as both a coach and a counselor, and her mindset shift from being solely focused on winning to paying attention to athletes’ feelings and well-being. She stressed the significance of being curious and creating a trusting connection with athletes.
Bernthal also emphasized the power of small but frequent deposits into the “relational piggy bank.” Letting student-athletes know that you care about their lives beyond the field can open the door to essential conversations about mental health.
Bernthal and Zobrist both capped off a powerful discussion by sharing actionable strategies for fostering an athlete’s growth beyond their performance in sport, including the importance of taking breaks, recognizing one’s limitations, and creating a balanced approach to training and life.
Connection was a consistent theme throughout the webinar, and its importance is central to Honest Game’s work with thousands of students, families, and schools across the country.
As a system that hundreds of high schools and districts rely on, Honest Game plays a crucial role in helping students understand that there are diverse pathways to success beyond just Division I sports. The Honest Game system empowers students to communicate with their network and ensure they can chart a course that aligns with their individual goals and abilities. The vision at Champion Forward is clear and complementary to that of Honest Game – both seek to help members of our nation’s sporting community explore their full opportunities and lead meaningful lives.
“The Power of the Pathway” webinar featured a deep dive into the delicate relationship between sports performance, academic achievement, and mental health. As Ben Zobrist strongly stated, there is boundless value in giving your best in all that you do and all that you are. “How you do anything is how you do everything.”
Interested to learn more? Fill out the form to watch the complete webinar.
Champion Forward is a nonprofit organization that serves competitors, caretakers, and coaches. With a focus on providing tools and resources, the organization teaches the skills of awareness, balance, and connection. These skills, when properly applied, help competitors, caretakers, and coaches to prevent burnout, avoid isolation, and relieve the pressure to perform. If you are interested in connecting with Champion Forward, visit connect.championforward.org.
Beyond Sport Coaching, founded by Stephanie Bernthal, M.Ed., PC, is dedicated to addressing the increased mental and emotional challenges showing up around the athletics world. As a former Division I Head Coach with more than a decade of experience, Stephanie blends her clinical mental health background with her athletic and coaching expertise. Beyond Sport Coaching provides tailored emotional and mindset coaching for athletes and offers mental health consulting for sports organizations. For personal support or team coaching, contact us at [email protected].