Silent Concussions

24 02 2017

“The trauma that results when coaches over step the boundaries of human decency and respect.”silent-concussion

We have become INCREASINGLY aware and sensitive to the dangers of concussions over the last couple of years. Professional sports is implementing increased protocols in an effort to protect their players as they should. Traumatic brain injuries, as many know, debilitate the functioning of the brain and therefore ends up forever affecting the quality of life for the one affected as well as those around them. We all know that prevention is the key.

There are certainly no shortage of concussions in youth sports. I am glad that greater awareness is paving the way for preventing and protecting more youth sport athletes.

However, there are “BRAIN INJURIES” that our young athletes are encountering with little to no intervention or treatment. These injuries often come in the form of coach/athlete interactions. Often through simple observation you can attend any youth sporting event and witness interactions that are laced with demeaning abusive language, demeaning body language, a complete lack of self control, as well as, an overall disrespect for the athlete. These interactions are often excused by believing they are done in the “name of developing the athlete.” The athlete needs to: “toughen up”, “get more motivated”, “be sent a message”, “learn from their mistakes”, “quit making excuses”, etc. If we truly believe these types of interactions actually correlate to the outcomes purported, we need to truly re-think our logic. The bigger question is why are we so tolerant of these interactions especially when it comes to our young people.

The damage that these interactions are having on the psyche of our young people is astounding!

I often hear from parents, “Well if I do anything my kid will be punished, lose playing time, be alienated,” (or some reason that has FEAR at the center).

What about this? If we continue to tolerate coach bullies we are going to cultivate a generation of mentally intimidated, cowering, fearful, depressed, and dis-empowered young people. Personally, I would much rather have a young person lack playing time than confidence, self definition, personal empowerment, and courage. In my mind there is no contest in that trade.

Some of the damaging symptoms of a concussion include the slowing down of brain functioning, a feeling of fog, headaches, dizziness, and a lack of capacity to think clearly. If we look carefully, when our young people are bullied through intimidation, tactics that feed on fear and mental game playing, we are generating some of these very symptoms. CONFUSION, AND SLOWER BRAIN FUNCTIONING to name a couple. To make matters worse when we see evidence of these symptoms that are attributed to the environment generated through and because of these interactions we BLAME THE ATHLETE for the symptoms.

What has led to us believing that this type of behavior is acceptable?

When did we lose all common sense to think that learning, developing and progressing happens in an environment of confusion, intimidation, bullying, and fear?

The imprint these strategies are having on our young people is TRAUMATIC!!!


In my opinion, quality interactions should include:

  • Clear and specific expectations.
  • Honest feedback that gives understanding for the decisions that are made that impact the athlete.
  • Specific and personalized feedback that explain the strengths and work areas for the athlete and his/her ability to contribute.
  • Accountability that helps the athlete learn about responsibility to his/herself and the team.
  • An approach-ability that allows for young people to talk openly about their experiences without fear of punishment.
  • Kindness! Kindness and an overall love of kids should translate to an expectation that at the core of coaching young people is a love for them.

Young people flourish in an environment of clear, specific, consistent, honest, kind, and personalized feedback. The long term benefits of this are numerous and powerful.

It is time to make a shift in the environment that we expect our young people to play and compete in.

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


Communities that Unleash Kids for Success

11 09 2014

It is no secret that people thrive and exhibit moments of greatness when they are engaged and firmly rooted in a safe physical and emotional environment. I am compelled to write on this topic because there is not a day that goes by where I am not Who's Got Your Backhearing about some young person that is emotionally bruised, hurt, or devastated because of the social environment they are in.


This writing is not intended to analyze all of the breakdowns that lead to an unsafe emotional environment. There are plenty of much smarter analysts that have written and exposed those much more effectively than I can. Rather, I would like to envision a type of community that we could aspire to provide for our young people. This community, whether it be a sports team, classroom, church group, or neighborhood, could be the most powerful asset present in a young person and families life.

I envision a community that is built first and foremost on acceptance. Acceptance is the life source that unleashes courage, self expression, belonging, and a sense of unconditional love. The type of acceptance I am referring to is actively, diligently, and ferociously protected at all costs. When someone says something that compromises the sense of acceptance of anyone present it is gracefully but intentionally dealt with. Acceptance is like soul food for the heart and soul of a young person. When ones sense of acceptance is not in question miracles of self expression happen. Fear of rejection is minimized, bullying is not tolerated and the hearts of young people are protected with fierceness and loyalty.

I envision a community where people are fully present. Imagine watching your kids learn how to start, grow, and maintain friendships. Friendship only grows when people learn how to become fully present and authentically interested in each other. I believe that we would see the hearts and souls of our young people come alive if they were able to EXPERIENCE THIS! The hearts of our young people are craving a touch from another loving, caring and present soul. Have you ever wondered why so many kids are “acting out” these days. I believe it is because the hearts of our young people are starving for authentic connections with others. In the absence of this the soul cries out in ways that seek to get the attention of those that can do something about it. A community of acceptance fueled with fully present people would literally perform miracles for many hurting kids.

I envision a community where young people are pursued with passion, fueled by the possibility another sees in them. Pursuit is powerful. We all like to be sought out, chosen and believed in. When people are taught to be and act like this with each other our young people actually end up becoming difference makers in each others lives. A community, team, group, or neighborhood that makes this type of social environment a necessity, rather than an after thought, will give each family and young person a gift of a life time.

Let me give you one other thing to consider:

You can watch exceptionally talented athletes at young ages, listen to musical talent from young people that will bring you to tears on The Voice, and Google the latest business idea that came from a 14 year old…imagine training and equipping more young people with the capacity to become difference makers socially with each other.



Look at “Who’s Got Your Back? Team Experience 1.0 Building and growing groups that transform one another.”

ACCEPTANCE, PRESENCE and PURSUIT actively executed with courage, conviction and consistency is a game changer. Let’s take this vision and make it a reality for our young people. Lives will be changed and transformed forever!

You wonder if I am right? Ask the parents that lay in bed at night wondering if their son or daughter is going to go another year without friends or experience some form of rejection the next time they go to practice or school.

Nothing Short of Bullying

26 02 2014

ImageOver the years it has become increasingly apparent to me that we have a HUGE problem in our youth sports culture. It would be natural to assume this problem is with parents that have unrealistic expectations for their kids that lead to the over involvement it tends to breed. However, I have come to realize there is a much bigger problem sparking outrage that needs to be addressed.


Everyday, young athletes and families invest big chunks of time, energy, money, and maybe most importantly, HOPE in the sport they play. Their hope is that they will have a positive experience comprised of bonding with their teammates, skill mastery and the possibility of another adult mentor giving them another voice of truth.

What do many of athletes find when they show up? Many are met with negativity, verbal abuse, a lack of communication, and significant confusion to name a few. This leads to many becoming discouraged, beaten down, and quite frankly hurt beyond our awareness.

Because of this I feel compelled to write…

In a time where we are writing legislation to put an end to bullying, I wonder why we have been so silent when it comes to how our kids are treated by many coaches? Are we that afraid of the possible back lash that we allow this to happen without outrage and up-rise?

Now, I am aware not all coaches treat athletes in this manner however, I believe many coaches utilize screaming, verbal abuse, and mind games along with emotional manipulation in an attempt to motivate and get kids to behave in a certain way. For instance, just last week I witnessed a coach scream at a 9th grade basketball team while on the bench. For what? They made a bad pass? Missed a shot? Were in the wrong place?

Does this justify such abusive behavior?

What about an athlete that shows up to practice and exhibits low levels of energy, engagement and execution? Does this give license for a coach to “go off” on a kid? Do many think to themselves… “they had it coming because they are lazy, disinterested and distracted”? To get the kids going the coach had to do something.

If we believe that these are acceptable reasons for a coach to verbally assault our kids we need to truly think twice about the price tag of this. OUR KIDS ARE BEING EMOTIONALLY DESTROYED! What is worse, is that our kids are often blamed for the verbal assaults, manipulation and confusion. We have set our kids up as the source of our coaches happiness through their athletic performance play. Many kids believe that their coaches are more invested themselves than the team itself.

It is time that we RISE UP and quit tolerating these often utilized coaching strategies. Yelling, intimidating and verbal abuse of our kids is not okay! I do not care what level of laziness, distractibility or lack of execution is occurring. This type of coaching behavior is unacceptable . If this type of behavior happened in any other environment (schools, for instance) the bully would be suspended and often times expelled. Yet, this bullying takes place daily in gyms, rinks, and on fields all over the country with little to no consequence to the bully.

From where I sit the spirit of our young athletes is being destroyed.

What is worse is that the kid truly has no recourse. Day after day they go to practice and games and experience this type of coaching with little to no protection around them. What is a kid in this situation to do? Should they go talk to the coach and say; “I will not put up with this type of treatment!”? Doing so in many cases will be seen as a lack of respect and most likely will result in punishment to themselves and the team.

It is important that we have a no tolerance policy for coaches that utilize intimidating, manipulative, verbally abusive, and poor skills in coaching. Our kids are hungry for a positive experience and deserve to be coached by skilled coaches that know how to get the most out of them while they cultivate a safe and positive environment.

I am passionate about championing positive experiences for our young athletes. This happens when parents, coaches, youth boards, and communities quit tolerating unacceptable behavior and start prioritizing training, skill development and accountability for those that have the privilege of shaping and influencing our young people.

In my next blog I will lay out a plan for how coaches can generate quality experiences for kids while they are able to challenge them to be at their best.

Until next time, lets join together in doing something to STOP THE BULLYING.

Shaun Goodsell