How pressure on athletes can affect mental health

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 7:06 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -A turn of events at the Tokyo Olympics Tuesday, after U.S. gymnast Simone Biles withdraws from the team finals. The 24-year-old said the emotional toll of the games, not a physical injury prompted her withdrawal.

Biles’ story highlights a bigger issue many athletes face in the world of sports. The pressure on athletes and how it can affect their mental health.

Whether you’re playing high school sports, are on a collegiate team or competing in the Olympics, the big message mental health professionals want to emphasize is that it’s okay to ask for help.

Once an athlete himself, Mental Health Counselor Andrew Burroughs knows how stressful it can be to play a sport.

“In high school, when you were going to big meets, you were leaving school, missing homework and then especially in college, sometimes you were gone for a couple days and it was difficult to try to catch up on all that stuff,” said Burroughs.

He now helps athletes of all different ages and levels who are struggling.

“It’s interesting because they all have similar issues related to pressure. They all want to do the best they possibly can, they don’t want to do anything negative, but it’s difficult at times depending on what else is going on. Obviously we all have personal lives going on at this time. So balancing those is just difficult,” said Burroughs.

Madison Kyle, is a licensed certified social worker at Rising Hope Counseling. She also works with athletes.

“When they come in struggling with anxiety it might be from previous failures that are now causing second guessing or injury recovery. They are worried about hurting themselves again,” said Kyle.

Both professionals say one thing that can help is going to counseling or therapy. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health. Which is why Kyle is glad to see public figures like Simone Biles speaking up about mental health.

“It normalizes it for everyone else, you know, if this titan is struggling, it’s okay that I do too,” said Kyle.

Burroughs agrees.

“Hopefully that there’s other athletes around the world or especially in this community that can recognize that you don’t always have to be the person that your team asks you to be. Sometimes you can kind of take a step back. That’s why you have teammates and that’s why you have coaches to kind of pick you up. That you need to be okay mentally in order for you to perform athletically,” said Burroughs.

Their advice to athletes who are feeling the pressure is to think back to why they started playing the sport in the first place. And focus more on enjoying the sport instead of just competing.

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