The Olympic Games, being one of the most complex and watched sporting events in the world, immediately provide a huge platform for its competition. When athletes make choices outside of the norm, a flurry of media coverage ensues. Over the course of this summer’s games, these reporting trends gave Simone Biles the power to start a conversation about mental health in the world of sports. Biles, the most decorated and accomplished gymnast of our time, caught the world’s attention when she unexpectedly dropped out of the all-around, uneven bars and vault finals, citing a lack of consciousness in the air when competing due to immense stress. . Biles backed up his decision, saying, “It’s okay sometimes not to take part in big competitions to focus on yourself because it shows how a competitor and a strong person you are, rather than just [battling] through.”
While Biles has been accused of being weak, selfish, and cowardly, most responses to his decision have been positive. Many praised her for her bravery and for prioritizing herself and her safety in an environment where the topic of mental health has long been taboo. As Biles emphasized the importance of examining the mental effects of competition, she created space for new questions to ask about how competitive mindset and athlete mental health are intertwined. .
Such surveys can be applied to student-athletes, who face a unique interaction with their sport. After a year and a half in which many have been forced to take breaks from gambling, it will be interesting to note how the return to a competitive environment impacts mental health.
Samuele Gabriele and Liam Morehouse, captains of the boys and senior varsity water polo team at Berkeley International High School (BIHS) and Academic Choice (AC), respectively, felt the pandemic was working like a reset for them in as athletes. “The pandemic has helped us [take] take a step back and reflect on what water polo has done to us, and come back to it with a healthier mindset, ”said Gabriele. When the pandemic first hit, Gabriele went from 24 hours of training per week to pure Zoom training and then gradually returned to distance swimming training with lane lines. Now the Berkeley High School (BHS) team has reverted to full contact practices. Morehouse added: “I think the free time was actually pretty positive; when I came back to sport, I was in a better position to be more competitive and apply myself more, because I knew more what I wanted and how to handle things.
Of the water polo intensity challenge, Gabriele said: “It’s basically your whole life, and sometimes people get burned out because they literally know every tile in the pool they swim in. However, the excitement of the new season and an in-person school year currently outweighs concerns about burnout for Gabriele and Morehouse. “I’m very grateful to be back, to be in a position in the pandemic where we’re all allowed to be together in the pool and to swim, pass and compete with other teams. I really missed it, ”Morehouse said.
Charlotte Dierks, a senior in AC and a player for the women’s college football team, also said her feelings on the return were generally positive. At the start of the pandemic, his football game was reduced to individual training and Zoom training. As time passed and players began to get vaccinated, Dierks returned to an increasingly normal game. “I love soccer and it helps me stay productive because I’m in a school, soccer and homework pace. I’ve noticed that without football in my life, I don’t know what to do with myself, ”said Dierks. She recognized that the competitive aspects of a team sport environment can have drawbacks. “Mental health is rarely mentioned in sport. While I love my sport and where I am now, there were definitely parts where it was difficult to deal with. Sometimes that can be a very toxic environment, ”Dierks added.
Dierks said: “Seeing that professional athletes are able to take a mental health break, high school students can then feel more comfortable doing the same.” She also pointed out: “Another aspect, however, is that the level of the sport is completely different, so some people may think that, since it is not as intense as professional athletes, their feelings are not as valid. ” Because of this obvious separation between high school and professional athletes, Dierks said more directly related factors, like coaches and teammates, are a more important determinant for players to feel able to speak up and prioritize. mental health. So, as the school year unfolds and the novelty wears off, teams should prioritize creating environments that are prepared to deal with the mental burden that constant competition can place on students. and young, busy athletes.