Evaluating the Many Types of Mentorships in Sports - by Sarah Daren

From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

Sarah Daren is a featured writer on the Today Show website and has been a consultant for organizations across a number of industries including athletics, health and wellness, technology and education. When she's not caring for her children or watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.

Sarah Daren
Sarah Daren

Sports are an integral part of societies; they have been for millennia. While sports are a well-established aspect of societies, the benefits which are inherent to participation in sports sometimes go overlooked- especially post high school. For people who still have the interest and availability to participate in sporting teams or events the number of ways in which they are positively affected by that involvement is vast.

Physical and mental health, team building, social skills, and cognitive adaptations are just a few. While these are great and what people most commonly recognize as positive results, the value of mentorships seems to fall lower on that list of benefits. Here are some ways in which the various types of mentorships demonstrate themselves in sports.

Types of Mentorships

Formal/ Informal Mentoring

This is the most commonly recognized and thought of definition of mentoring wherein a single mentor meets with a mentee face to face. The formality of this relationship typically involves regular, scheduled meetings where the format of those meetings can be causal or quite organized.
The organization of these meetings is dictated by the goals desired by the mentee or the observations of the mentee by the mentor who seeks to draw out and enhance the learners' abilities. Building off of principles of counseling, formal mentoring should have specific objectives, measurable outcomes, and a time period in which the collective goals can be reached.

Informal mentoring, while encompassing those goals and interpersonal dynamics, tends to take a much more relaxed and organic evolution. These tend to grow out of friendships or with acquaintances.

Peer Mentoring

High School and college are rich with such options for a peer mentorship. The nature of those programs and the plethora of individuals who are attending those institutions makes an environment rich with opportunity for such connection. Peer mentoring speaks for itself: the role and values typical of a mentor/mentee relationship born out of a peer group.

One of the major differences between traditional formal and informal mentorship versus peer mentoring is the age difference. Most people, when thinking of or looking for a mentor desire to work with someone older that possesses a set of knowledge and skills honed by years' worth of difference.

This streamlines the process of learning skills for success, fast-tracking the mentee to a higher state of competency. However, peer mentorship has something that formal mentorship tends to lack: relatability. Peers share a greater body of interests, skills, and challenges which makes for a different level of emotional support. A senior mentoring a sophomore on the soccer team is a perfect example of this.

mentor with kids

Group or Team Mentoring

Group mentoring is where one mentor works with several mentees simultaneously. This type of regular mentorship maintains the base values of mentorships but strengthens and adds other interpersonal dynamics that are inherent within group interactions.

Team mentorship occurs when teams of mentors (small or large) come together to systematically engage with a group of mentees. They challenge, direct, and support the growth of the group of teams. These are likely the most common expressions of mentorship in sports.

Articles by Sarah Daren