Enough Is Enough
We hear of the accolades. The conference titles, the national champion rings, the goals scored, and the records broken.
We can’t wait to start the conversation about mental health until it is too late. Putting the athlete before the person can be detrimental, as we have seen far too many times.
It is easy to hide the struggles. It is easy to put on a smile. It is easy to tell people what they want to hear. It is easy to pretend like you’re on top of the world.
It should be easy to ask for help. It should be easy to admit when it’s too much. It should be easy to ask a coach for a mental health day. It should be easy to have access to resources. It should be easy to have a conversation about your mental health.
But…it is not easy. Athletes fear being judged for not being tough enough. They fear they will lose their starting spot or be looked down upon. They fear people will think they don’t care about their sport or their team enough.
Mental health needs to become a priority. It can start by changing the narrative.
Dear athletes…you are valued beyond your sport. You are loved beyond your sport. You are seen beyond your sport. You are an athlete, but you are so much more. You are a student, a friend, a confidant, a son or daughter, a brother or sister. You are a million things.
You are enough.
Such a simple idea. It almost seems self-evident. But I know firsthand how difficult accepting it can be.
I have spent my entire life playing sports, trying to become the best I can be. I have had some very high highs, but also some very low lows. I have been playing division one soccer for almost three years. Again, I’ve experienced the highs. The winning, the relationships with my team, and getting to be a part of something bigger than myself. But I have also been through two surgeries, survived the isolation of Covid protocols, navigated the transfer portal process, and had some of my toughest moments thus far. Through it all, I have struggled with anxiety and depressive episodes. I know I am not alone in my struggles. So many athletes have similar stories.
This is why we need to change the narrative.
Our mental health needs to become a priority. It is more important than our physical fitness. It is more important than our performance on the field. Coaches and trainers and parents at all levels of sport need to understand how to check in with their players, how to recognize the signs (spoken or otherwise) of strain, and what resources are available to help. Coaches and trainers and parents need to understand that all athletes are struggling to one degree or another.