As a coach, you have a very important opportunity to instill a commitment to wellness in your players and staff. Players who are committed to being as healthy in mind and body as possible will be better teammates, more fun to coach and will be more prepared to play their best.  Staff who live a healthy lifestyle will be more reliable, better teammates and role models and will be more likely to bring their best to their roles.

The most effective way to shape a team culture that values wellness is to model the behavior yourself. This toolkit provides suggestions and simple behaviors that can contribute meaningfully to a healthy lifestyle and team.

*Wellness is about a commitment to being healthy in body and mind. A healthy lifestyle can improve your emotional health, mood and overall well-being. By adopting relatively simple behaviors — such as sleeping well, staying active, eating healthy foods, and taking steps to manage stress — you can help yourself feel better, improve your state of mind, and perform to your potential.

Keys to Wellness:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Sleep
  3. Exercise
  4. Managing Stress
  5. Recognizing Problems Before They Escalate
  6. Developing And Using Proactive Coping Skills

1) Nutrition: 

Good nutrition is a key element of wellness. A healthy, well-rounded diet boosts energy and contributes to a positive mood. We know that poor nutrition contributes to irritability, low energy, increased stress and poor concentration. Taking the time to take care of yourself and eat healthy can go a long way toward promoting your overall well-being.

What you eat                                               When you eat

Proper nutrition is all about balancing how much you have of each type of food. Our bodies need fuel throughout the day to run properly.

A healthy diet is made up of:

·       protein foods (poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts and lean meats)

·       fruits

·       vegetables

·       whole-grains fat-free or low-fat dairy products

Missing meals or waiting too long to eat can cause fatigue and irritability, and also increases the likelihood of both overeating and eating unhealthy foods at your next meal.
It is best to select foods that are low in saturated fats, sodium and added sugars. Starting the day with a good, healthy breakfast is ideal & eating something every few hours can help to keep energy and mood up throughout the day.
 For more information on healthy eating and a balanced diet, check out

2) Sleep:
 Talk with your doctor to determine your individual nutritional needs and the best plan for your overall wellness.

The right amount of high-quality sleep is important for health and overall well-being:

  • The average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep to feel rested (though there is a lot of individual variability).
  • Quantity & quality of sleep are both important.
  • When our sleep is disrupted by our schedule, stress or illness, it can have a negative impact on our mood, energy and ability to get things done.

TIPS to Help You Get High Quality Sleep

Stay physically active and exercise regularly.

Be wise about your napping.

Limit caffeine and alcohol, and avoid nicotine.

Develop a regular sleep schedule (and bedtime routine) and stick with it. Consider these simple steps:

  • Make your bedroom comfortable for sleep (comfortable bedding, temperature control, light-blocking shades, etc.).
  • Hide the bedroom clocks (set your alarm so that you know when to get up and must get out of bed to turn it off) — so you don’t worry about what time it is if you happen to be up at night.
  • Shut down all electronics ONE HOUR before bed and avoid bringing them into the bedroom at all.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime ritual (a shower or warm bath, listen to soothing music, practice relaxation techniques, yoga or prayer).

Everyone’s sleeping needs are different, so try out different techniques until you find what works best for you (additional tips & techniques are available at

3) Exercise:

Exercise is good for you! Some of the benefits of exercise include:

Better mood:

    • As quickly as five minutes into exercise, mood can improve.
    • Over time, regular exercise can help ease long-term depression.

Reduced stress:

    • Exercise can be an excellent coping strategy to help release stress and increase relaxation and anxiety.

Boosted energy:

    • Exercise can increase attention and concentration and is associated with improved memory.

4) Managing Stress:

Stress is a normal part of life. A certain level of stress is healthy – it can be motivating and can help you be more productive. But when stress feels too intense or overwhelming — or lasts too long — it can become a problem for both your physical and your emotional health.

Signs Your Stress Level is Too High:

Disruptions in sleep or eating patterns Increased irritability & shorter fuse (increased anger/frustration)

Physical Ailments

·       Recurring colds and minor illnesses

·       Frequent muscle aches

·       Increased frequency of headaches and/or tightness

Increased difficulty in getting things done Greater sense of persistent time pressure
Being more disorganized than usual


Strategies** to try if you’re experiencing any of the above:

Focus on taking good care of yourself by:

·       Getting enough sleep.

·       Eating healthy, well-balanced meals.

·       Exercising regularly and sensibly.


Keep it all in perspective:

·       Practice gratitude — instead of focusing on your stress, focus on what’s going well in your life.

·       Try to separate what you can control from what you can’t; if you can’t control something, let it go.


Give yourself a break:

·       Take a long bath or hot shower.

·       Read for pleasure.

·       Connect with teammates or loved ones.

·       Do something fun that you enjoy.


Practice relaxation:

·       Deep breathing.

·       Meditation.

·       Yoga.

Writing or listening to music.

Avoid drugs and alcohol (short term may seem like a way to lessen or avoid feelings of stress; but in the long run, drugs and alcohol make it much worse).

Recognize when you need more help and reach out.


**The key is learning to recognize the signs and causes of your stress and to address it when it first appears.

5) Recognizing Problems Before They Escalate: 

Just as stress is a common experience, we all feel down from time to time.  Brief periods of being sad or irritable are not usually cause for concern, but there are things you can do to help yourself feel better. Here are tips to manage difficult days (for you and to share with your team). 

Strategies to try if you are feeling down:

Figure out what is making you feel down and, if possible, address it.

·       For some situations that may mean accepting a disappointment.

·       For others, it may mean having a difficult conversation to resolve a conflict.

·       There is a strong connection between what you say to yourself and how you feel (example, self-criticism will only make you feel worse and won’t help you make positive changes). Learn how to recognize and challenge negative thinking.

Recognize and challenge negative thinking.

·       Be kind to yourself about the situation or your limitations.

·       Learn how to “write a new script.”

o    Sometimes, negative self-talk can become a kind of reflex.

o    Try paying close attention to what you’re saying to yourself.

o    When you hear yourself make a negative statement, replace it with a positive (more accurate) statement instead.

·       If it’s hard for you to come up with a positive thought to use, ask 3 people you love/respect to tell you their 3 favorite things about you.

·       Cognitive-behavioral therapists are experts at helping people write new scripts and break negative thinking cycles that can contribute to feeling down.

Reach out to your support network.

·       Sometimes when we are feeling down, we isolate ourselves – reaching out can do wonders for our mood.

·       Here are some options:

·       Call that one person with whom you know you can be real. Tell them you are having a tough day.

·       Consider calling your brother, sister or closest friend and just talking.

·       Reach out to an acquaintance just to say hello. Even a brief interaction can help make you feel more connected.

·       Try finding a way or place to have positive interactions with others.

·       Reach out to your therapist (if you have one) and ask them to move your next session up a bit.


Take care of yourself:

·       Relatively small things like eating a healthy meal, getting a good night’s sleep, or cleaning your messy room so it feels nice and cozy can all go a long way in improving mood.


·       Get up and move. A change of scenery can do you well and there is a lot of evidence that being physically active helps our mood.

If these strategies don’t help, or if you feel too down to try them, it may be time to seek help.

6) Developing and Using Proactive Coping Skills:

In addition to setting the norm that members of your team take good care of themselves, you want to make sure to encourage people to really look out for each other. This is particularly important for players who may be struggling emotionally.

Here is a framework you can share to help your player know how to be a good teammate for someone who is having a hard time.

Being a Good Teammate:

If your teammate is having a hard time, here are some things you can do:

Let them know you are concerned


·     Tell them what you’ve noticed & why it worries you (be specific and non-judgmental).

·     You can start by saying:

I’m worried about you because you seem…” (e.g., really stressed, tense, worried all of the time, etc.).
“It concerned me when you said…” and be specific
about what you heard.

Do you want to talk about it?”

What can I do to help?”

Listen (really, listen) if they are willing to share their worries with you.
Be there for them

·       Sometimes just knowing that someone cares and is there for them is all someone needs to get through a difficult time. Let them know that it is possible to feel better and they are not alone.

·       Don’t feel like you need to have all of the answers.

Educate yourself about strategies to manage anxiety and share them with your teammate

·     Offer to go to a yoga class together.

·     Find a relaxation/meditation app that you like and share it with your teammate.

·     Give them a journal to write down their worries.

Trust your gut if you feel your teammate may need additional, professional support and connect them to resources

Connecting someone to resources: In some cases, you may feel like your staff member or player would benefit from professional support.  If this is the situation, it is preferable to be direct about your concern, and for you to be open to finding a way to ease their stress about seeking help.

  • Convey your belief that treatment can help.
  • Share a time that you struggled and how outside support helped you.
  • Offer to reach out to the team doctor or the National Basketball Coaches Association to get a referral.
  • Maybe they would feel more comfortable if you sat with them while they called to make an appointment or if you rode with them to their first appointment.
  • Make it clear that you will follow-up to find out how it went and what the plan will be.
  • Another great resource is Crisis Text Line (CTL).  At any time, you can reach out to CTL to ask advice or your teammate or loved one can reach out to get support.
  • Here’s how it works: Crisis Text Line serves anyone, experiencing any difficulty, providing access to free support and information via text.
    • Text START to 741-741 from anywhere in the USA. A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds quickly.


This Coaches Toolkit details six key areas to be mindful of and which may improve your overall wellness.  The NBA season and travel required can be grueling and have a negative impact on your health and wellness.  By implementing some of these tools, you can be healthier, more energized and present for the stretch run.


Adapted in part from The Jed Foundation, Mental Health Resource Center (