Shut Out the Stigma delivers a message from the kids

June 2023

When it comes to memory and how it shapes us, studies show that emotional events are the most impactful. For a lot of kids, sports can fall into that category. The pressure to play well and win, coupled with the influence and feedback of a parent, even when well intentioned, can negatively shape a child’s internal narrative of self-worth.

With this in mind, the Kansas City Royals and Blue KC – Official Health Insurance Partner of the Royals – are expanding their Shut Out the Stigma partnership. Now in its third year, Shut Out the Stigma is broadening its focus to educate parents, coaches, and guardians on the pressure kids face on and off the field.

“Young athletes who experience high external and internal pressures to perform, including pressures from parents and coaches, are more likely to burn out and develop behavioral health conditions,” said Dr. Greg Sweat, Senior Vice President and Chief Health Officer, Blue KC. “This risk is exacerbated if the child only plays one sport. Coupled with the fact that 50% of lifelong mental health conditions begin by the age of 14, we need to realize the way we talk to our kids about sports can influence success and long-term happiness.”

Dear Mom & Dad

Roughly 27.4 million children between the ages of 6 and 17 play sports. And chances are, a parent or guardian comes to watch. The conversation in the minutes after the buzzer sounds is critical and can make or break many young athletes’ self-confidence and self-worth.

To highlight the effort to change these conversations, Blue KC and the Royals recently unveiled the first in a series of larger-than-life letters written by youth athletes to parents, guardians, and coaches. Each letter delivers a powerful 10-foot-high-by-7-foot-wide message about the difficulty of having to constantly succeed. The letters are installed at the Urban Youth Academy and Blue Valley Rec.

Hear one of the letters.

Guided approach to post-game conversations

Encourage and support the kids in your life during the post-game ride home. Our detailed Conversation Guide, developed by Blue KC certified behavioral health specialists, outlines a seven-inning approach on how to start a positive dialogue with your child.

About Shut Out the Stigma

Shut Out the Stigma aims to eliminate the negativity around behavioral health, remove the stigma, and bring awareness to this important topic. As part of the initiative, and in partnership with the Kansas City Royals, every time a Royals pitcher throws a shutout inning in a game, Blue KC donates $30 to a worthy area nonprofit. To date, we have donated more than $60,000 in support of behavioral health. For further information, support material, and resources, please visit

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