Aspen Institute Calls for Coaches to Develop Emotional and Social Skills in Youth Athletes

March 5, 2019

New coaching resources have been created by the Sports & Society program and the National Commission on Social, Emotional, & Academic Development

Contact: Jon Solomon
Editorial Director, Sports & Society Program
The Aspen Institute

Washington, DC, March 5, 2019 – The Aspen Institute today released a new brief outlining actionable calls for coaches to focus on the needs of the whole child. This resource, entitled “Calls for Coaches: Coaching Social and Emotional Skills in Youth Sports,” is the result of a partnership between the Sports & Society Program and the National Commission on Social, Emotional, & Academic Development.

The brief is available to read here:

This initiative was funded by the Susan Crown Exchange (SCE), and began as a white paper, “Coaching Social and Emotional Skills in Youth Sports,” commissioned from the EASEL Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The brief adapts the paper into actionable practices for coaches to implement in after-school and community based-sports leagues, with the objective to:

  • Help coaches understand why youth sports is a great venue for developing social, emotional and cognitive skills.
  • Provide strategies and best practices for coaches to adopt that intentionally name, model and create environments for youth athletes to develop and practice these skills.

In the brief, former professional tennis player Andy Roddick, now founder and chair of the Andy Roddick Foundation, remarked: “We understand the profound impact that a coach can have on a kid — something I’ve experienced firsthand — and this report demonstrates just that. Coaches create safe spaces to learn and know when to give encouragement, even when we’ve already thrown in the towel.”

The need for these resources was made apparent in the “State of Play 2018” Aspen Institute report, which highlights a steady decline in youth participating in a team sport on a regular basis. Participation was 37 percent in 2017, down from 41 percent in 2013. The hallmark of a high-quality sports experience is often a young person’s relationship with a coach, yet only 36 percent of youth coaches surveyed say they have received training in effective motivational techniques.

“Sports provide such a unique opportunity to help youth develop physical, social, emotional and cognitive skills, yet too often this golden chance to build kids up gets squandered in our hypercompetitive sports culture,” Sports & Society Program Editorial Director Jon Solomon wrote in a story exploring why good coaches matter.

The Aspen Institute will release the brief and host a discussion of the future of coaching on Tuesday, March 5 from 10:15 a.m.– 1:00 p.m., as part of the quarterly Sports & Society “Future of Sport” series. Speakers will include former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, University of Maryland men’s soccer coach Sasho Cirovski, Washington Mystics professional basketball player Natasha Cloud and freelance writer Linda Flanagan, author of “How Effective Sports Coaches Help Students Feel Understood at School.” In addition, youth athletes and their coaches will share their experiences in sports.

Editor’s note: A livestream of the event can be viewed at The video will be available to watch at the same link after the event.

The mission of the Sports & Society program is to convene leaders, foster dialogue, and inspire solutions that help sport serve the public interest, with a focus on the development of healthy children and communities. The program provides a venue for thought leadership where knowledge can be deepened and breakthrough strategies explored on a range of issues. Its signature initiatives are Project Play and Future of Sports.

The National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development united youth, educators, scientists, and leaders from multiple sectors of society to re-envision what constitutes success in our schools. The Commission recently released its culminating report, From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit


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