STREETSBORO, Ohio — Streetsboro head football coach Pete Thompson is taking Coach Beyond training, a program through Ohio State University that trains coaches about youth mental health.

What You Need To Know

  • Coach Beyond is a program at Ohio State that teaches coaches about mental-health challenges student athletes can face

  • It's a part of the university's LiFEsports initiative, which aims to improve the landscape of coach training

  • The program has trained 7,000 coaches so far

The issue is personal, Thompson said, after he saw firsthand the signs of mental-health challenges when a player showed up late for practice one day.

“He told me the reason why he was late was that he was contemplating killing himself that morning," Thompson said. "That completely floored me, and it was something that for the next hour and a half, he and I sat in my office and we talked, and I hadn’t been through this type of training or anything like that."

Dawn Anderson-Butcher is the co-executive director of the LiFEsports program at Ohio State, which administers the training. 

She said the training helps coaches spot signs so they can identify when they need to intervene and connect the player with a mental-health professional.

“Coaches, who have these really great relationships with young people, who see them on an everyday basis — the weight room, they’re out in the field — you know, can be better at sort of picking up some of these signs and symptoms," Anderson-Butcher said.

LiFEsports data found that 22% of Ohio high-school players have seriously contemplated suicide. The data also found that 29% of Ohio coaches feel confident in their ability to address mental health.

Thompson has a mental health challenge ahead of him in practice next week. His team just suffered their first loss of the season, and he needs them to recover from it. He checks in with players during stretches, he said, to take the pulse of their well-being.

“Today's a Monday," Thompson said. "See how their weekend was. You know, we took a tough loss last Friday night. You know, Saturday was a rough film session for us.”

He checked in on each position during drills, and said each player has different background and needs, so he’s learning how to deal with them individually.

“In the heat of the moment, sometimes particularly out here on the field, as much as we wanna bark and yell sometimes, you don’t know how that kid’s day was up until this point if you haven't checked in with them," Thompson said. 

The LiFEsports program has trained more than 7,000 coaches and aims to train 15,000 coaches by 2024.