How to help student athletes’ mental health

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels

By Maya Palavali
The Trendsetter Editorial Page Editor
Texas Metro News

Extracurricular activities are important in any young adult’s development ; everything we do in these formative years matter. An easy way to stay active and stay well rounded is joining a sport. Many join a sport with the intention to have fun and, in essence, is what it should be— a fun way to help your body. However, it has become the opposite as time has gone by.

All high schools have a variety of sports teams, from basketball to tennis. The athletic department has become so important that schools have begun to increase their attention and resources. According to Busted Coverage, American schools spend an average of $100 billion on sports events as well as three times as much compared to education. With this, there’s an ever mounting pressure on student athletes.

The current culture is one of constant competition and stress. Students wake up early and get home late with their free time taken up by their sport. Games are scheduled weekly, at minimum, while practice is usually held daily. The underlying issue is that of inherent expectations. All of the pressure is put onto the student’s shoulders to win and perform perfectly. The intent of sports falls away to the pressure of being the best of the best.

This situation causes detrimental effects in students. According to North Eastern University, recent statistics show that 95% of male and 85% female athletes experience higher stress levels compared to the 52% for non athlete students. The demand sports have on young adults takes away their ability to take care of their mental and social needs. Students have less time for studying, but also basic necessities such as eating and sleeping.

Neglecting needs is just one factor of the rise of mental health problems in student athletics. Because of this culture of the constant need to prove oneself, most young athletes are not happy with where, and who, they are.

There is nothing that one individual can do to fix the system as a whole. But, you can change something arguably more important : your own life. To be the best in your sport, you have to stop focusing on being the best. Though this may seem contradictory, you need to start prioritizing your needs over your desire to become perfect. You need to commit to a balanced routine that involves work and play. Once you get your mind stimulated, you will have more of a headspace to devote to your athletic responsibilities. Allowing yourself to breathe means that you are allowing yourself to heal; just like your body, your mind needs to be taken care of.