Teen Athletes Treatment: Psychology for the Coaches

Typically, when you think of teen athletes, you think of the support going to the teen! Usually, if sports are a major part of a teen’s life, then there’s a chance that grades and other aspects of his or her life might suffer. Teens who are athletes have demands placed on them that perhaps other teens don’t experience. Not only are they faced with academic stress but they also feel the pressure to perform, to keep their bodies in shape, and to succeed in their chosen sport.


To help teens with these demands, many universities, high schools, and community organizations provide academic and athletic support programs. For the most part, these programs are aimed at meeting the academic, personal and professional development needs of student athletes.


However, two psychologists came up with a valuable training aimed at coaches that, for teens, significantly changes the meaning behind playing in a sport. The Coach Effectiveness Training (CET) program helps make sports personally fulfilling for teens, keeps them involved longer, and facilitates a healthy relationship to their busy lives. The CET program has helped teens feel better about who they are in general.


CET is based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is a form of psychotherapy that believes in the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Thoughts lead to feelings, which lead to certain behavior. CBT aims to identify thought patterns that lead to harmful feelings, distress, and/or risky behavior. It aims to change deeply seated, harmful beliefs that are the cause of unhealthy thinking. It facilitates a healthier interpretation of daily events and replaces thoughts with those that are self-affirming. CBT can also to developing problem solving and coping skills.


This is applied to the CET program and athletic coaches by teaching them to be aware of their behaviors, to understand how their young athletes perceive their behaviors, and to foresee the impacts of their behaviors. CET also hopes to instill in coaches a commitment to improving the lives of teen athletes and rewarding their efforts. It aims to change the “winning is everything” view of sports and turning it into a personal growth experience.


Psychologists Ronald Smith and Frank Smoll designed the program in 1977 and it continues to be a successful means to transform sports in schools, communities, and universities. The CET program was scientifically developed and evaluated time and again through psychological study and evaluation of coaches who have been CET trained.


The benefits of the program for adolescents are clear. They enjoy the playing of the sport more than overly engaging in the competition. When teen athletes are personally fulfilled by playing a sport, by the relationship they have with his or her coach, and by the relationship they have with their peers, they experience less stress. In a recent article that evaluated the program, CET was described as “the most convincingly documented program in theory and research proven effectiveness.”


Although it is often the teen athletes themselves that garner the attention of psychologists and mental health professionals, this is a powerful program for coaches, which tremendously benefits the lives of teen athletes.





American Psychological Association. (May 29, 2003). When Psychologists Teach Coaches How to Coach, Young Athletes Feel Better and Play Longer. Retrieved on July 16, 2014 from: http://www.apa.org/research/action/coach.aspx