In the dynamic realm of high school sports, a beacon of mental health support has emerged—The Coaches Care Project. This transformative initiative, a brainchild of the Max Foundation and Tim Denney, in partnership with the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), resonates with a profound dedication to fostering resilience and support among student-athletes.
The genesis of the Coaches Care project can be traced back to the Max Foundation’s visionary commitment to equipping coaches with the tools to address the mental health needs of their athletes. In an interview, Tim Denney, a pivotal figure in this initiative, revealed that the initial vision modestly focused on Roseau county schools. However, through collaborative efforts with Charlie Campbell of MSHSL, the project evolved into a statewide undertaking. The aim was clear: create a self-operated training accessible on the website, a comprehensive guide covering warning signs and response strategies.
Charlie Campbell, the Associate Director at MSHSL, brought a fresh perspective when he joined in 2021, becoming an instrumental force in shaping the league’s education program. Campbell emphasized, “We heard loud and clear that mental health education was important, and the league made a full commitment to addressing the gap. We have a mission to spread knowledge about mental health and how to recognize when somebody’s in crisis and how to respond when somebody needs help.” This alignment of purpose marked the birth of a meaningful relationship between MSHSL and the Max Foundation, leading to the creation of an extensive online training program. This program covers topics ranging from adverse childhood experiences to recognizing warning signs of mental health difficulties and trauma impacts. MSHSL’s commitment to producing high-quality online training has been pivotal in the program’s success.
Tim Denney, the architect of the Coaches Care program and a mental health expert, underwrote four modules for MSHSL. The initial focus on suicide prevention garnered significant outreach, with around 12,000 views. This success spurred the development of additional modules covering adverse childhood experiences and the recognition of warning signs of common mental health difficulties. These modules are now mandatory for all Minnesota State High School League coaches.
Measuring the success of the Coaches Care project goes beyond concrete data on lives saved—it is about responsiveness. Member schools, seeking resources, found a lifeline in these modules. Charlie Campbell of MSHSL recognizes the power of community stories, such as the Max Foundation’s, that transform tragedy into a catalyst for change.
As the Coaches Care project looks towards the future, Denney and Campbell envision the expansion of more modules, regional in-person training opportunities, and increased support for adults directly working with students. The program’s success hinges on reaching every corner of Minnesota, with an anticipated 16,000 individuals completing the training by year-end.
The Coaches Care project transcends being a mere training program; it is a movement challenging the stigma surrounding mental health. The Max Foundation envisions a future where mental health education is as normalized as any other coaching aspect. These modules not only impart essential skills but also cultivate a culture where conversations about mental health are embraced.
In a recent interview Denney commented that, the Coaches Care Project is more than a step towards a healthier, more supportive high school sports culture. It is testament to the power of collaboration, community and the belief that every coach can be a beacon of support for the next generation of student-athletes. In a interview with Campbell he agrees with Denney that we have developed a message with one of hope, empowerment, and the transformative impact of education. We have also created an opportunity with these modules to reach beyond just coaches.
Together, let us play our part in championing mental well-being for the next generation.