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A girl in a light blue bib turns with the ball while faced by three players in front of her during training.

It's more complicated than ever to be a young person. Social media, school pressures, and world events can contribute to poor mental wellbeing. According to the NHS, nearly 20% of young people in the UK suffer from a mental health disorder. This number is increasing year on year. 

During puberty, young people become increasingly self-conscious. Peer acceptance becomes more important. And the fear of being socially excluded influences many of their decisions.  

Although they think about both good and bad outcomes, many will make the wrong decision if that's what their friends do. The presence of peers is crucial to risk-taking. When observed, young people will take up to three times more risk. 

During this time, young people begin to fear being embarrassed. This leads to them talking about themselves negatively. Being in front of an audience makes anything difficult. Young people take this one step further by creating an imaginary audience in their heads. This audience judges everything they do and feeds negative thoughts. 

The problem with negative thoughts is that they don't exist in isolation. Your thoughts connect to your emotions and the behaviour you display. This means even one negative comment can have far-reaching consequences.

Remember when we talked about new habits being created at this age? These emotions can feel even more extreme during puberty as their brain learns what to do and how to recognise them. If we don’t help our young people think better, these extreme emotions can persist into adulthood.

The logical and rational part of the brain is the last thing to develop in teenagers. This means unhelpful thoughts can spiral because they can't rationalise them. This makes young people especially vulnerable during this period.

How can you help?

Speaking about mental health and wellbeing can feel overwhelming. When it's a young person, this can feel even scarier. But remember, you're not alone. The Greater Game is here to support you. Here are a few tips:

  • Use The Greater Game resources to support your conversations.
  • Get to know your players as individuals so you can notice when their mood changes.
  • Encourage your players to talk to each other after training or matches and share how they feel.
  • Role model the behaviour you want to see and prioritise your own wellbeing.
  • Educate your team on the link between thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. They'll be able to understand the consequences of what they say to each other.
  • Engage with other coaches on the England Football Community.

Discuss The Greater Game resources with your players’ parents and carers. There are some created specifically for them. Then encourage them to continue the conversation at home and support their child to think well.

As a coach, you can significantly influence your player's ability to think well. So, don't waste this opportunity.

To learn more about The Greater Game and thinking better, check out these learning modules.