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Leading in the Dark

Juggling the responsibilities of managing college athletes alongside mental health issues is overwhelming and unattainable. The role of a college coach is already demanding, consuming time and energy that often takes a toll on personal and family life. Finding a balance is challenging enough, but when compounded with additional mental health challenges, it can become incapacitating.

Coaches are driven to positively impact their athletes' lives, to mentor, love, and foster their personal growth. However, what happens when the coach is emotionally shattered? What happens when the leader silently endures while losing their support system at home? Many individuals tend to support their loved ones during physical illness, but often struggle to provide the same level of support for mental illness.

The intersection of faith and athletics can provide a powerful framework for coaches to navigate these challenges. The Bible speaks on mental illness in multiple verses, offering guidance and solace to struggling people. For example, Psalm 34:17-18 says, "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit." These verses remind coaches that they are not alone in their struggles and that there is hope for healing and restoration.

One powerful example from the Bible of a leader who experienced spiritual and emotional struggles that affected their leadership and relationships is the story of King David. In Psalms, David pours his heart to God, expressing his deep anguish, fears, and doubts. In Psalm 42:5, David writes, "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."

During this time, David faced personal challenges, including guilt over his affair with Bathsheba and the subsequent consequences that affected his family and kingdom. His spiritual and emotional struggles impacted his ability to lead effectively and maintain healthy relationships. However, through his honest prayers and seeking God's guidance, David found solace and strength to continue his leadership journey.

This example reminds us that even leaders in the Bible faced personal battles that affected their leadership and relationships. It emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and addressing our struggles, seeking support, and finding solace in our faith. By doing so, coaches can find the strength and resilience needed to navigate their challenges while still positively impacting the lives of their athletes and being productive family members.

However, it's essential to acknowledge that managing mental health issues while coaching is difficult. Coaches are often independent individuals who are accustomed to handling challenges on their own. Part of it is our controlling tendencies and part is a selfishly “selfless” desire to keep our struggles to ourselves. That's why self-care becomes crucial. Coaches need to prioritize their mental well-being and seek help when needed. Just as they support their athletes, coaches must also care for themselves.

Finding strength and resilience through faith can be a powerful tool for coaches. By leaning on their spiritual beliefs, coaches can find comfort, guidance, and renewed purpose. Coaches need to remember that they don't have to suffer in silence. Seeking support from their faith community, friends, or professional counselors can significantly affect their well-being.

In conclusion, the intersection of faith and athletics can be a guiding light for coaches managing mental health issues. By drawing strength from their spiritual beliefs, seeking support, and prioritizing self-care, coaches can navigate these challenges while still positively impacting the lives of their athletes and personal relationships. Remember, you are not alone, and there is hope for healing and restoration.

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