The Impact of Sports on Youth Mental Health

What is the impact of sports on youth’s mental health and well-being?

In this podcast, our guest Jean Guillaume, Former Athlete, Coach, Teacher and Social Worker, joins Christian for a dive deep into how sports affected their upbringing and still play a key role in who they are as people. 

Jean, who coaches football, found his passion for the sport in his teen years. 

“Football saved me because it gave me a passion, it gave me something to focus on.” 

Jean and Christian believe sports can be extremely beneficial to youth for the following:

  • building work ethic
  • learning social skills
  • gaining sense of community
  • keeps at risk youth safe
  • creating identity outside of school
  • having a sense of physical therapy
  • preparing youth for the world at large
  • surrounds youth with positive role models

On the flip side, they also stress the importance of student-athletes having other hobbies and interests to remain well-rounded and fulfilled by more than just one thing. 

“When a sport becomes everything, that’s when it’s dangerous… As human beings, we are very complex, and that’s why we need to embrace every angle of what we are.” 

Jean, who is a former athlete, reveals his own battle with his mental health around the time of his decision to stop playing football, which 

 “I went through it. I remember I stopped watching football…and it took time to remember that one of my greatest mentors told me, ‘Hey if you don’t play… coach, so you can stay in the game.’ You know, it’s hard when you’re passionate about something to stop cold turkey. As a player, we all dreamed of going big.” 

After quitting his football career to complete four academic degrees in sociology, social work and education, Jean ultimately combined his love of sports and helping others by becoming a teacher and coach, in which he feels provides the greatest mental health resource in sports.

“Wherever I go, I use sports to bring people together”.

Jean firmly states that as a football coach, he never turns away any student. With as many as 65 places on the roster, he is able to connect with not only the athletes, but their parents, siblings and the wider community. 

He knows the positive impact of sports on youth starts with the coach,

“As a coach, I teach my guys, but I live the way I want them to live… You’re teaching them more by your actions than your words.” 

Among the many life lessons Jean teaches his students, resilience and self-esteem are at the forefront. 

“The best gift you can give to a child is self-esteem…because if that child has self-esteem, they can achieve anything in the world. But self-esteem is to make sure that they embrace the toughness of life…When you’re comfortable, you never grow. We can see that in music, we can see that everywhere around the world. You travel in poor areas– the kids, they create, they invent things and they become little geniuses because they have to find a way to overcome.”

Jean Guillaume on the Speak Real Podcast

Watch the full episode here:

At YouthSpeak, we share one-on-one conversations with our youth speakers on their journey through topics on mental health and wellness. These are their personal stories and ways they’ve overcome various obstacles in their lives. We want to help youth find their voices and empower themselves through the power of their narrative!

YouthSpeak is a charity organization based in the GTA, Canada that conducts assemblies and interactive workshops to help increase the resiliency of youth facing challenges today. To find out more about our projects and initiatives visit

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