The Holistic Approach in Sports: Benefits of Awareness Training

Athletes and coaches in a session focused on integrating mental health awareness in sports training.

In the world of sports, athletes, coaches, and officials often push physical boundaries in pursuit of excellence. Yet, an emerging perspective is challenging the long-standing belief that physical prowess alone leads to success. The question arises: What are the advantages of holistic training in sports?

Read more: The Holistic Approach in Sports: Benefits of Awareness Training

A pivotal study conducted by Breslin et al. in 2017 sought to uncover the impacts of sport-specific mental health awareness programs on sports personnel’s mental well-being knowledge and help-seeking behavior. Delving into this research sheds light on a compelling narrative, emphasizing the importance of mental health awareness as a cornerstone of holistic sports training.

The Need for a Mental Health Focus in Sports

The sports arena is no stranger to the tolls of mental strain. Be it the pressure to perform, the anxiety of competition, or the challenges of teamwork, psychological stressors are abundant. But how prepared are athletes, coaches, and officials to recognize and manage these pressures?

Breslin and his team identified a critical gap: the sports community lacked structured, sport-specific mental health awareness programs tailored to its unique needs.

Unpacking the Study’s Findings

Upon an extensive review of 1216 studies, ten were deemed relevant for synthesis. The results were insightful:

  1. Efficacy in Mental Health Referral: Six studies reported improvements in the ability to refer individuals to appropriate mental health resources post-intervention. This underscores the ability of these programs to empower sports personnel to act when mental health concerns arise.
  2. Enhanced Knowledge of Mental Health Disorders: Three studies observed an uptick in knowledge about mental health disorders. A more informed community is more likely to recognize early signs of distress, leading to timely interventions.

However, it’s essential to address the limitations as well. Seven studies did not offer effect sizes for their results, making it challenging to derive clinically meaningful conclusions. Moreover, a recurring concern was the substantial variance and limited validity in the methods used to gauge mental health knowledge and referral efficacy. This calls for a more standardized approach in future research.

The Advantages of Holistic Training in Sports

So, back to our initial question. The benefits of holistic training, which integrates mental health awareness, are manifold:

  1. Enhanced Performance: Mental well-being plays an indispensable role in optimizing performance. An athlete in a balanced mental state is better poised to focus, strategize, and excel.
  2. Resilience Building: Armed with the tools and knowledge to handle stressors, athletes can bounce back from setbacks more efficiently.
  3. Creating a Supportive Environment: When coaches and officials are well-versed in mental health, it fosters an environment where athletes feel supported and understood.
  4. Reducing Stigma: Mental health awareness programs can challenge and reduce the stigma associated with mental health challenges in the sports community.
  5. Improved Interpersonal Relationships: With enhanced mental well-being, athletes can communicate more effectively, leading to improved team dynamics.

Moving Forward: A Call to Action

Breslin’s study serves as a clarion call for the sports community. While the initial findings are promising, there’s a need for more well-structured intervention studies. It’s crucial for researchers, practitioners, and policy makers to unite, using methodological guidance and the psychological theory of behavior change as a foundation.

In conclusion, as the sports world continues to evolve, a shift towards holistic training is not just beneficial but imperative. Incorporating mental health awareness into sports training is no longer an option but a necessity. The pathway to excellence in sports isn’t just paved with physical training but is also deeply intertwined with mental well-being.


Breslin G, Shannon S, Haughey T, Donnelly P, Leavey G. A systematic review of interventions to increase awareness of mental health and well-being in athletes, coaches and officials. Syst Rev. 2017 Aug 31;6(1):177. doi: 10.1186/s13643-017-0568-6. PMID: 28859666; PMCID: PMC5579872.

Photo by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash

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