Projects: Collaborate.Health

Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Health in Children

Using sports and therapy to reduce and prevent social, emotional, and behavioral health-related challenges in youth.

Agency Partner
Doc Wayne
Communication Strategies for Public Health
Social Innovation Forum
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Reducing and preventing social, emotional, and behavioral health-related challenges in youth ages 5-8 by using sport and therapy to empower and strengthen youth. Included adaptation of the current curriculum to an evidence-informed curriculum for younger children as well as clinician training on the new curriculum.


One in five children under age 19 suffers from a mental illness that impairs how they function at home, at school and with peers, but it is estimated that only 20-34% receive treatment. While Massachusetts has the nation’s highest rates of children screened for behavioral health issues, the Boston Globe (2013) reported that many of them were not receiving appropriate treatment. Obstacles included stigma, transportation, language barriers, and reluctance to engage in treatment.

Doc Wayne, a non-profit organization that works to fuse sport and therapy to heal and strengthen youth who are at-risk (defined in a variety of ways) addresses this through a specially designed sport-based outpatient group therapy program named Chalk Talk®. Chalk Talk® is unique in that it is delivered to youth on the field; it is embedded inside the existing practice and game-play structure such that there isn’t a distinction between the curriculum and coaching. Doc Wayne coaches are clinicians, modeling and teaching principles of evidence based treatment modelsand social emotional core competencies. While the curriculum has been well-received by the youth and evaluations have shown effectiveness of the curriculum, there is a need to enhance the existing curriculum to be appropriate for the social, emotional, and behavioral health for children ages 5 through 8 as well as engaging for this population both from the student perspective and also in messaging the curriculum to parents/guardians and training clinicians to deliver it.


Reducing and preventing social, emotional, and behavioral health-related challenges in youth ages 5-8 by adapting and expanding on existing partner organization’s programs.


After a thorough literature review the proposed intervention was an evidence-informed adaptation of the current curriculum for older children with appropriate training and messaging for clinicians and parents. In addition, a software application to be used by clinicians during sports sessions was developed.


Students developed the entire adapted curriculum (called the “Rookie Curriculum”) for children ages 5-8 along with a manual for clinician training and the specifications for a software for clinicians to use during sessions. One student continued with the partner organization after the semester as an intern and helped the organization write a grant to fund the design and implementation of the proposed curriculum, which was awarded in 2018.  Implementation of the curriculum is planned over the next year and the organization is more able to meet the demand of referrals in this age group.

Project Timeline

This project took six months to complete from kick-off meeting to presentation of final deliverables. Click the button below for a detailed timeline.

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The work that the students in the course did was very helpful and it paved the way for us to apply for the grants that we will use to develop the junior Doc Wayne curriculum. Without the students, we would've been starting from scratch. One student in particular, Katie McKay, was particularly helpful to Doc Wayne - not only did she work diligently on the Design Intervention Project, she also continued to work with us as a Data and Communications Intern after the semester.