Megan Bartlett – Founder, The Center for Healing and Justice through Sport
@chjsorg on Social
Healing-Centered Sport Overview
Implementing Healing Centered Sport
Changeable by Stuart Ablon
The 3-Sentence Summary
Past trauma greatly increases the chance of athletes overreacting to small events, and that overreaction can strengthen the part of the brain that is prone to overreact, creating a vicious cycle. As coaches, we can help kids regulate their stress response by building trust, helping athletes move in patterned ways (rowing), and creating predictability in practice. This creates a more inclusive environment for kids who might otherwise feel excluded from the larger group because of their stress response.
0:29 Megan Bartlett – focused on making sure sport experiences are healing experiences for young people.
1:55 We use the term “Healing Centered Sport” to focus on the positive, not so much on “Trauma-Informed _______,” which may paint some kids in a negative light.
5:59 Athlete Yoga Flow demonstration
9:13 Connection and Movement: connecting with young people and getting them moving in their bodies is more important than anything else you could do for them.
9:46 Stress is not just about big events or major adversity.
10:30 We know that sport has positive effects on people. What about sports was most beneficial for you? Why should young people have the opportunity to participate?
- Builds confidence
The Impact of Trauma
13:17 Trauma can come from big events (natural disasters, pandemic, shootings), circumstances (poverty, food insecurity, immigration status), or being “othered” (being the minority).
“Trauma is the wrenching away of control when you need it the most.” We all experience overwhelming events differently.
17:22 Three parts of the brain to focus on:
- Lower (Survival)
- Middle (Emotional)
- Front (Smart – Rational thinking)
19:37 Trauma impacts development by flooding the brain with stress, which makes the Survival part of our brain take over. The more we use it, the stronger it becomes, and the harder it is for our Smart brain to develop to respond to adversity. We’re in survival mode all the time, which means we overreact to events that wouldn’t normally cause stress as if they do cause stress.
22:57 Kids who have experienced trauma might find themselves in a vicious reinforcing cycle of overreacting to stress, which strengthens the Survival part of our brain, which leads to more overreaction… Adults can mistake this for an intention to misbehave, not a biological reaction to stress.
25:46 These kids are more likely to get kicked off teams and kicked out of school.
30:00 The brain can always change – it can change back through the power of sport through…
- Relationships: Trust is the antidote to stress
- Patterned repetitive rhythmic activity (like the rowing stroke) regulates the stress response
- Stress regulation gives us the time to put thought between healing and action.
- Controlling the frequency and intensity of stress. The opposite of overwhelming stress is dosed stress–just beyond the comfort zone to stretch, but no farther.
37:07 Dosed stress helps us build resilience by creating a virtuous cycle of responding positively to stress, which grows the Smart part of our brain, which makes us able to handle more stress, etc.
39:43 Building resilience in sport does not mean that we don’t have to address the systems causing the stress. Even if you can’t do anything about those systems, you have to care about them, and they have to see and feel that you do, too.
43:51 Scenario 1: First Practice – kids don’t know anyone and adults are not welcoming.
- Unpredictability is stressful. Trust and relationships help buffer that.
- Fix: Enthusiastically greet kids, show them where to go, and explain what will happen next.
46:38 Scenario 2: Late to Practice – coach makes them run laps.
- You can’t punish someone into learning something.
- Fix: Welcome the athlete, catch them up, and work with them later to figure out something to try so they can come on time.
49:38 Scenario 3: Misses the Mark – a coach looks away when the athlete misses the game-winning shot, strikes out, or doesn’t win.
- Fix: Remember our reactions matter. Encourage the effort and refocus on moving forward with the athlete.
51:43 Key Principles
- Every person is different. Act accordingly.
- Relationships buffer adversity.
- Build up all skills.
- Give young people meaningful choice and control.
- Help young people regulate.
53:56 Not just for kids!
54:52 A dysregulated adult cannot regulate a dysregulated child.
55:57 Behavioral intervention states to isolate and contain a child who exhibits undesirable behavior. However, their body and brain say that they need to feel connected and safe and to move. Our job is to give them strategies to regulate their stress.
58:31 You don’t learn to regulate in an hour. You change behavior over time, especially when you are encouraged to reflect on your experiences and bounce ideas off others.
1:02:39 We teach the way we were taught. We parent the way we were parented. It is useful to have models (e.g. coaches) who can teach us a different way.
1:03:23 Resource: Changeable by Stuart Ablon
1:04:42 What can I do if a child has a high ACE score and bottles up their emotions?
Young people do this to avoid exploding. Keep forming a positive relationship with them, get them to move, and always offer space for them to share if they want to.