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Social Workers as Positive Sports Allies in Mental Health

Social Workers as Positive Sports Allies in Mental Health

Many athletes around the world are using their voices to advocate for change, and there are professional groups supporting them from a vast network from the field of social work. Across a large group of professional social workers runs a thread of interests and skills that focus on the advocacy, support and treatment of athletes. The Alliance of Social Workers in Sports (ASWIS) mission is, “.. is to promote individual and community well-being through partnerships between the profession of social work and the field of athletics. We focus on partnerships in practice, research, and policy, with involvement and awareness in all areas where social work and sports systems intersect“ and is a “..collective voice for social workers to advocate for and educate administrators and organizations about the breadth and depth social workers can uniquely bring to athletes and athlete culture.”

ASWIS was formed in 2015 to help provide a platform for social workers working with athletes or in sports to “partner with and contribute to all levels and call segments of sport.” This dynamic group of mental health professionals provides education, training, networking, collaboration and a certification program for social workers looking to work in sport. This network supports athletes by providing clinicians, consulting, resources and education to athletes at all levels of sport. Their membership has grown to over 400+ social workers working in sport, and provides an annual conference, committees in youth/college/professional sports, International sport, education and clinical practices.

AFH has been thrilled to work with Anita A. Daniels, MSW, LCSW, LCAS, CCS, current Vice President of ASWIS and founder at Actualities, Ltd, who hosted two free mental health check in sessions with the AFH athlete network last month. These sessions focused on athlete identity during the COVID crisis, addressing barriers and then discussing practical tips and resources that athletes at all levels could include to strengthen and support their mental health.The ASWIS network also created a comprehensive list of mental health COVID Responses and resources for their members. It can be found on their blog for those looking for specific pandemic support resources.

Here are two infographic resources ASWIS created to support and strengthen athlete mental health during a global pandemic.


We are collaborating with ASWIS to continue the dialogue on athlete mental health with an OpEd (coming soon!), more mental health resources and opportunities in the intersection between social work and sport. Their continued leadership and education about athlete mental health is leading the way for others interested in this space and we look forward to having more athlete voices at the table in discussing athlete mental health. AFH collaborated with mental health professionals to create a “Quick Hitter” graphic guide to athlete mental health. It’s meant to be a high level checklist of signs to look for, what to say and do and a few specific mental health resources if you suspect a teammate is struggling with their mental health.

The AFH team is committed to continue the conversation with our athlete network about mental health and advocate for resources, volunteers and more. Check out our recent collaboration with friends at DocWayne who hosted a Facebook live event for kids and COVID with Erica McLain, USATF, Olympian and advocate and look for more like this in the future.



Suzanne Potts LMSW, MPH
Director, AFH University