Mandan H.S. launches Sanford Sports psychology program

Partnership benefits athletes’ and coaches’ mental and behavioral health

Mandan H.S. launches Sanford Sports psychology program

Construction on the new Mandan High School is humming along, brick by brick, to build a brand new facility for these modern times. And just like with their new building, which is set to open in 2024, school administrators are constructing a more modern athletics department as well, thanks in part to Sanford Sports.

“We were looking for something to add for our coaches,” said Mark Andresen, principal at Mandan High School. “Give another tool or another resource for them in how to deal with the athlete in this day and age. They’ve got challenges and struggles just like anybody else, so helping to understand the kids a little bit better.”

Sanford has partnered with Mandan High School for strength training, rehab and other programs to help athletes perform better physically. Now with the help of Andy Gillham, Ph.D., the lead performance psychology specialist at Sanford Health, the school is hoping to improve the mental health of their athletes and coaches as well.

“There are some generational changes for sure,” said Gillham. “It can’t just be my way or the highway anymore. We have to explain why we are doing things, and we should want to do that. We as a coach should want the athlete to say, ‘I don’t understand, Coach. That doesn’t make sense to me. Why are we doing this?’ Coach should have an answer.”

Building a mental performance training program

The first-of-its-kind program started in early June with Gillham hosting an in-person clinic with coaches from six different fall and winter sports. They followed that up with virtual calls every other week during the summer. During the season they will continue to communicate, bringing current issues to their discussions.

“We can be proactive with a lot of the mental health pieces,” Gillham said. “We can teach coaches how to put athletes in some stressful positions and then teach them how to interpret that, and teach them how to be more resilient in the moment.

“But coaches need help on learning how to do that nicely and learning how to be proactive. That’s really the point. How can we be proactive rather than always reactive and relying on our mental health systems to which we know are already overtaxed?”

Andresen, along with being the school’s principal, has also coached the baseball team for three decades. For him, the main reason to try this new program is simple: It helps his student-athletes.

“You’ve got to find new ways to approach your kids. You’ve got to find new ways to be positive with them,” Andresen said. “They really respond well if you do it correctly.”

That’s why Andresen and Sanford Health are working hard to build up their athletes the same way they’re constructing their brand new school: brick by brick, and made for modern times.

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Posted In Back to School, Behavioral Health, Bismarck, Children's, Sanford Sports, Sports Medicine