Athletes’ Minds Matter activities are designed to be completed before or after practice in about 10-15 minutes; like a mental warm-up or cool-down. Coaches, captains, and OMM club leaders can lead any of these activities with teams is large or small groups.
Browse through the categories below to find activities that will spark the conversation about mental wellness and improve student athletes’ well-being!
Smoke, spark, fire
At the start of practice, invite everyone to share a “smoke” (something negative that is clouding their mind), a “spark” (something they have recently been excited about), and a “fire” (something that has brought them joy for a while).
High, low, buffalo
At the beginning of practice, invite everyone to share a “high” (something positive that they have experienced this week), a “low” (something negative that they have experienced this week), and a “buffalo” (something strange, interesting, or funny that has happened to them this week).
Rose, thorn, bud
At the start of practice, invite everyone to share a “rose” (something positive that they have experienced this week), a “thorn” (something negative that they have experienced this week), and a “bud” (something that they are looking forward to in the next week).
Body Positive Affirmations
Read the following affirmations and any other body positive affirmations that resonate with you and your team. Athletes can take turns reading these out loud or one person may read them and others can repeat back.
- My body is a good body. My body is deserving of love and respect. I will not compare my body to anyone else’s. I am grateful for everything my body allows me to do. My body is my home and I will build it up, not tear it down. I am strong. I am enough and I always have been.
Pass out 5 sticky notes to each athlete at the end of practice. Have them write each of the following items on a sticky notes:
- Something I did well today was:
- Today I had fun when:
- A positive thing I saw today was:
- Something challenging I accomplished was:
- Something I did for someone was:
After everyone has completed their sticky notes, post them around your practice space, team room or locker room!
What Does My Body Do for Me?
Invite athletes to silently reflect on how they think about their bodies and the pressure that is placed on their bodies. Then, encourage them to write down five things that their body DOES for them- instead of focusing on how it looks. As time allows, have athletes share what they wrote. Some examples to guide your athletes along could include: My body can run sprints, my body makes me feel strong, my body gets me where I need to go.
Place jars (or another container) around your practice space with some pencils and slips of paper. Invite teammates to write down something they are grateful for and put it in the jar. At the beginning of practice each day, read one thing that someone is grateful for.
Coping Strategy Keychains
Pass out an index card to each athlete. Take a minute or two to brainstorm out loud some positive coping skills. Then, invite athletes to write down three positive coping skills that resonate with them on their index card. Once they have finished, they can attach them to their equipment bags with ribbon so they will always have coping skills to turn to during practice or a competition.
instructions for a bad day
Facilitator: With mental health, progress and recovery is not a linear progress. Just because we make small improvements over time does not mean that every day will be a little better than the last. Everyone has setback and everyone has bad days every once in a while
What does a bad day look like to you? What happens on a bad day? (group discussion)
Facilitator: There could be no rhyme or reason as to why one is having a bad day. Maybe they just feel off. Physiological processes could be going on inside of us that make us feel physically or mentally vulnerable. Or an event could have set us off that hits a soft spot within us that makes us feel emotionally vulnerable.
What do you do on a bad day? (group discussion)
Watch 5-minute video: Instructions for a Bad Day
Facilitator: What did you notice in the video? How was the video intended to make you feel?
Have athletes sit down with an index card and a pen/pencil. Invite them to write down an expectation that they feel is placed on them because of their gender identity. Underneath this expectation, encourage them to write how they feel about this expectation. Collect the anonymous cards and read them aloud or have athletes read them. Open the floor for athletes to have a discussion about these expectations.
What does it mean to “Man Up?”
For young men and boys, especially those in sports, there can be pressure to “man up” or appear “manly.” Ask athletes to share what comes to mind when they hear these kinds of phrases, and how it affects the way they carry themselves. What does society mean when they say “be a man?” Then, watch the following 2-minute video: The Best a Man Can Get.
Video discussion questions: What do you think about this video? What does it mean to YOU to “be a man?” How can we change the culture of masculinity or “manning up” so that we can be “the best a man can get?”
gender and mental health
Prior to the beginning of the activity create a line on the floor, approximately 10 feet long, using masking tape, painter’s tape, or yarn. Label one end with “uncomfortable” and the opposite end as “comfortable.”
Facilitator: Most of our personal experiences tell us that males are different from females. It turns out that research and statistics support our personal experiences:
- In one survey, a third of people who identify as males think society expects them to ‘be a man’ and ‘suck it up’ when they feel sad or scared.
- A third said they feel they should ‘hide or suppress their feelings when they feel sad or scared.
- As a result, males tend to see seeking help as a sign of weakness. Based on research, they are less likely to recognize, talk about, and seek treatment for depression.
- The result is teen and young adult males are more likely to die by suicide when compared to females.
Today we are going to explore the research further through a visual representation of our group’s comfort level with emotional expression. I will state an emotion and you will move along the line to represent how you feel, from comfortable to uncomfortable, expressing, or sharing the emotion with a close friend or trusted adult.
Yoga to Help Sleep
At the end of practice, practice different yoga poses that help with sleep. Encourage athletes to continue to do these poses at home to lead to a better sleep schedule.
Download the Breathe2Relax application and take five minutes at the beginning or end of practice to practice deep breathing techniques as a team.
Complete a five minute guided meditation with the team before or after practice.
At the end of practice, instruct athletes to sit quietly and take three breaths. Then, ask them to silently list 5 things they can see, 4 things they can touch, 3 things they can hear, 2 things they can smell, and 1 thing they can taste.
Have athletes break into small groups and pass out a sheet of paper to each group. Invite them to brainstorm a list of mental health resources in their community and write down the pros and cons of using each resource. After a few minutes, collect the papers and discuss as a large group. Consider posting the information of your school’s mental health resources in the athletic space as a follow up. For part 2 of this activity, see the Athlete’s Minds Matter portal.
Resource Scavenger Hunt
Prior to the club meeting, student leaders should identify trusted adults in their building. The goal is to identify at least one adult per department. Ask each identified adult to fill out an About Me Sheet and post it on their door the day of the scavenger hunt.
Using information collected on the About Me sheets, edit the Scavenger Hunt sheet. Include one clue per trusted adult.
Day of the scavenger hunt, decide, as a group, to complete the scavenger hunt in teams or as individuals. Provide each person or team with the Scavenger Hunt sheet personalized for your school. Set a time limit of 8-12 minutes depending on the number of trusted adults in the school. Have students disperse throughout the school looking to match the clue with the correct trusted adult. Remind students that the answers are on the About Me sheets on the trusted adult’s door.
Once everyone returns, determine a winner (fastest or most correct) and award a prize of your choice.