Helping coaches start conversations
As a young gymnast and cheerleader, Emily Rapada, ’18, saw the toll that many struggles of adolescence could take on young athletes. With so much pressure on physical performance and time spent with the team, she was disturbed that her coaches rarely initiated conversations about body image, mental health, and how race, gender and socioeconomic issues played out among her and her teammates.
“Adolescent athletes are going through all of these emotional changes and a lot of questions around identity,” said Rapada, who is multiracial, including Native American and Filipino on her father’s side. “It’s such a missed opportunity not to have coaches supporting them through that time.”
Now a master’s student in the Learning, Design and Technology (LDT) program at Stanford Graduate School of Education, Rapada is creating an interactive tool called Beyond the Game to help coaches address young athletes’ mental and emotional health and talk about difficult issues. The curriculum includes research, videos, questionnaires to guide discussions and a forum for coaches to connect with one another.
“These are such sensitive, emotionally charged topics—coaches need to know how to present them in a way that’s respectful and open, and how to respond when athletes share,” says Rapada, who has volunteered with Coaching Corps and worked as a youth gymnastics coach in high school and college. “This is how we can start changing the culture of sports.”
Rapada presented Beyond the Game to the public at the 2019 LDT Expo on July 26.