MindPower E-Course Trains Coaches on Mental Health and Wellbeing through Sport

In 2021, 63% of the projects who completed the annual Skateistan x Pushing Boarders Survey of Social Skateboarding Projects Worldwide selected mental health as one of their top aims. Yet, only 21% rated their mental health training for staff and volunteers as “excellent” or “good”. The MindPower E-Course, developed by Waves for Change, Health Warriors, and The Goodpush Alliance is a perfect place to start nurturing practical skills for supporting the wellbeing of staff and participants.


What is the MindPower curriculum?

Last year, the Skateistan South Africa team took part in the MindPower training designed by Waves for Change and Health Warriors and worked to integrate the lessons they learnt into the activities they run with students at their Skate School. Techniques learned in the MindPower curriculum help students stay anchored during emotional moments, an important skill needed to build a future and make positive life choices. We are proud to have tied these practical learnings together into a three-part, free e-course so that the knowledge is available for all!

Waves for Change is a South Africa-based surfing non-profit that gives children and youth skills to cope with stress, regulate their behavior and build healing relationships in safe and healthy environments — something that Skateistan has always believed in. The Waves for Change workshop provided techniques for mental wellbeing with various different exercises to share with young people when they’re facing particular roadblocks and challenges in their life. The team in South Africa participated in a week-long workshop to learn the skills to support young people in mindful activities and building resilience. They also adapted the curriculum from its original usage in surf-based programming to a skateboarding program context.

“Building techniques for mental wellbeing gives students an ability to stay anchored and calm during emotional moments. They can make better decisions and create more positive life choices. Our students are empowered to become leaders for a better world.” — Ashwyne Dames, Goodpush Educator

How are the MindPower techniques impacting the students?

We caught up with our educators at the Skate School in South Africa to learn about some of these exercises, and what the impact has been for students in programs at the Johannesburg Skate School. Ashwyne Dames, the Goodpush Educator at the time, told us about the ‘Take 5’ and ‘Power Hand’ techniques for mental wellbeing. 

Take 5

“Take 5” is a breathing technique used to calm down or become more mindful. It starts off with deep breathing and then it alternates between breathing in through the mouth first and then through your nose. While the participants are breathing they must notice their surroundings. What they hear, smell, feel, or see.

Power Hand

In the “Power Hand” activity, participants trace their fingers and when they get to the fingertip they name a positive characteristic about themselves. The participants do this till they have done all five fingers.

“Educators use these techniques to help students develop better coping skills. For example, when students participate in programs and something doesn’t go as planned for them, educators use the ‘Take 5’ breathing technique to develop their ability to cope with unplanned changes. The ‘Power Hand’ has been an incredible tool to use in instances when students disagree with one another. Disagreements can often cause young people to feel emotional, and the ‘Power Hand’ enables them to be self-reflective using positive self-talk." — Ashwyne Dames

We also spoke with Ashleigh Heese, the Partnerships and Innovation Manager from Waves for Change, and asked her a few questions about the MindPower curriculum.


Could you tell us how and why the MindPower curriculum was developed originally?

The curriculum was originally developed to scale access to activities which promote positive mental health in an accessible, cost-effective way. We hope the MindPower curriculum can support people who want to provide youth with access to safe spaces where they can practice skills which help build strong internal worlds with the support of a caring community of coaches and peers. The curriculum is built on a foundational understanding of some of the core pillars of youth wellbeing, and — excitingly — can be used in most sporting contexts where there is a caring mentor and safe space.

Why did you decide to approach Skateistan to pilot the curriculum? 

Skateistan does such important work supporting positive youth development, and we were lucky enough to connect with them at our Action Impact Network (AIN) conference in 2017. Our focus on mental health seemed like a natural fit to their (already amazing) program model, and since then we have been looking for ways to collaborate. We are really excited to have partnered with the team to pilot both introducing the MindPower curriculum to the South Africa skatepark, as well as to train coaches and build this e-course so more people around the world can join us!

Who is this MindPower e-course designed for? 

Programme designers, individuals, sports clubs, organizations… anyone who wants to integrate an understanding of youth well-being, and practices and tools which promote mental health through group physical activity, into their work. The activities are designed to be as user-friendly as possible, so that as many passionate people as possible can use this knowledge and these tools!


You can access the three-part MindPower e-courses for free via our e-learning platform:

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A massive thank you to Penceo Sport for sponsoring Skateistan with pro-bono use of their simple and interactive TheLearning LAB e-learning platform.