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Columbus Crew, community partners team up for children’s mental health

On Our Sleeves match, in partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, raises awareness, funds for common cause

Nagbe, Hoet at NCH

Midfielder Darlington Nagbe is a captain for the Columbus Crew but away from the MLS pitch, he is just a regular soccer dad. 

During a recent conversation about youth mental health and the role parents have in creating a positive sports environment for kids, the father of three said it is best - but not always easy - to keep a balanced perspective.   

“As parents, we need to understand that for our kids, playing a sport on the weekend is just an outlet to release emotion. We need to try to not live through them, which is tough sometimes,” Nagbe told Ariana Hoet, PhD, executive clinical director of On Our Sleeves and a pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “A lot of times, it comes from a good place – you want to see your child succeed and be great but at the same time, we need to recognize when it’s time to fall back and let them go out there and express themselves.” 

Sports can be an amazing outlet, yet pressure to perform or meet expectations of parents, coaches and teammates can negatively impact kids’ mental health. To help address this topic and countless other stresses facing young people today, the Columbus Crew presented “On Our Sleeves Day” in partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital on Saturday, May 13 as the club hosted Orlando City SC at Lower.com Field.

The On Our Sleeves Movement For Children’s Mental Health, created by behavioral health experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, is on a mission to provide access to free children’s mental health resources and raise money for creating expert-informed tools for parents, teachers and coaches across the U.S.

In addition to awareness elements and in-stadium fundraising, the Crew players showcased the theme in a variety of ways. Multiple players wore custom cleats, designed by Columbus artist Hakim Callwood, featuring On Our Sleeves imagery during pre-match warmups to raise awareness for the cause, including Nagbe, who also donned a captain’s armband promoting the initiative. Black & Gold players’ jerseys also featured numbers displaying On Our Sleeves icons. Select items will be available to Crew supporters via an auction that benefits On Our Sleeves.

The night culminated with a first-in-club-history drone show that illuminated the skies to illustrate the importance of children’s mental health while celebrating the Black & Gold’s history, On Our Sleeves, Crew supporters and everyone’s shared commitment to the City of Columbus and its youth.

“Nationwide is proud to join our partners at the Crew and Nationwide Children’s Hospital to support On Our Sleeves, driving greater awareness of the conversation-starting resources available to help families and children in our communities,” said Ramon Jones, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer for Nationwide.

Visit onoursleeves.org/crew for youth athletes conversation starters and many other helpful On Our Sleeves resources.

Columbus Crew drone show (Courtesy of Sky Elements)