Student athletic programs should adopt mental health supports

Willow Gideon , Journalism Reporter

   Student athletes have tons of pressure on them all of the time, not just during their season. Some of those pressures could be just simply keeping your grades up, going to practice, or the added pressures like parent or self expectations. All of these things eventually affect people in a negative way. Nowadays, sports are so competitive it makes this entire problem worse. Most people do not play sports for fun anymore. They play to try to get a college scholarship. With almost every kid striving for the same goal it has created problems as well. But, will schools and athletic programs raise awareness and get kids the tools they need to help them? 

   A big thing with being an athlete in high school or college is all of the things you balance. You have homework, classes to make it to, practices, extra workouts, and have to study for tests. But, where do they find time for themselves? This causes many athletes to feel constantly overwhelmed or stressed out. According to Timely Care, over 25% of men playing in the NCAA have reported being diagnosed with anxiety when they got to college. But, this is not just a problem in college. High school athletes trying to get a scholarship for sports go through the same things. But, colleges are more aware of the problem. Data from timely care confirms that athletes of any age have a higher chance of substance abuse, social anxiety, and eating disorders than regular students. This should not be something athletes have to go through without help. 

   Sports have evolved so much over the years I don’t think the world has caught up to it. Competitive sports start as young as first grade now. Just 10 years ago most 1st graders did not even know how to play an organized sport. The amount of attention that has increased for sports over the years is monumental. If you see how many fans are at professional level, college, or even high school sporting events it is insane. This causes an added pressure for athletes to perform. Studies show that a lot of mental health effects are based on the athletes’ expectations to perform. Athletes put this pressure on themselves without even realizing it. I think this is not known by a lot of people. This can cause mental blocks which affect performance or how you feel physically and mentally. Parental pressure is also a big thing nowadays for high school athletes. Parents put added pressure on their children to try to get them to perform better, but it ultimately just makes things worse. Overall, the way sports have evolved has caused added pressure on athletes which negatively affects their mental health and performance

   Overtraining and overworking is a problem known to athletes on all levels. Athletes have to train all of the time to try and improve their game, or just to keep up with others. But, overdoing it causes many problems. It can cause burnout. This is when athletes lose motivation for their sport. It can also cause anger issues, depression, and eating disorders. Overtraining is actually a huge problem most people do not know about. This is a problem with all sports. I think this is something that can easily be addressed and the problem could be fixed. Having counselors or a sports psychologist available to help athletes could lessen this problem. Burnout is completely mental, therefore having these people available or mandatory for teams to talk to could very much help. 

   Overall, athletes have a lot of mental struggles. Some of these are caused by the game itself, by outside pressure, and from internal pressure. But, having mental health counselors provided and encouraged/mandatory for high school, college, and even professional level athletes could help eliminate this problem. National Institutes of Health did a survey and nearly three quarters of the 50 NAIA institution leaders surveyed said they don’t have sports psychologists or therapists in their athletics departments. Around 45% of survey participants said their institutions’ overall resources related to mental health are average. This is a problem that needs to get fixed. The main thing about this problem is that it could improve, but a lot of people are not even aware of the struggles of athletes, and a lot of parents and coaches don’t know how to help, or blatantly ignore it.