Being an athlete requires discipline, routine, and regimen. Being an athlete means eating right, training right, setting goals, and pushing to be better. Being an athlete means getting support from coaches, nutritionists, trainers, and physical therapists. It means taking great care to prevent injury to our bodies, and it means taking proper care to heal our bodies after an injury. This is the approach that can make an athlete good at their sport. But what if, as athletes, we treated our minds the same way we treat our bodies? What if, as athletes, we took mental health as seriously as we took physical health? This is the approach that can make an athlete great at life.
My childhood was all about sports; playing sports, watching sports, talking about sports. I loved it all. But when I was 11 years old I sustained a knee injury that resulted in multiple surgeries, and forced me to sit on the sidelines for the next 10 years of my life. I wasn’t even allowed to participate in gym class. Not participating was really tough for me, but it gave me the opportunity see a different side of sports, and I quickly learned that how we deal things mentally, is just as important as how we take care of ourselves physically.
I watched my friends play competitive sports through high school and as they went on to become varsity athletes. I constantly felt down on myself for not being able to play alongside them, but they constantly shared with me how sometimes they wished they had an excuse not to compete. They shared that sometimes the pressure felt unbearable and the expectations to succeed were too much. These discussions were what lead me down the path to becoming a counsellor.
We expect athletes to have it all together, to be able to effortlessly balance school, work, family, and friends along with competing and being in peak physical shape. How often do we hear “don’t let your personal life affect your game”? So when something is affecting our game, it’s easy to think there is something wrong with us, and the instinct is to hide that, to not talk about it. Feeling overwhelmed is normal. Feeling like the pressure is too much is normal. Feeling like your personal life is getting in the way of your game is normal. But if we don’t talk about it, how could we ever know that? How can we learn how to cope?
Being an athlete requires discipline, routine, and regimen. Being an athlete means taking care of our mental health, talking to others, setting goals, and striving to be better. Being an athlete means getting support from counsellors, physicians, friends, and family. It means taking great care to prevent mental and emotional exhaustion, and it means taking proper care to heal our minds after dealing with stress and trauma. This is the approach that can make an athlete great.
Tymarah Cholewa, MA CCC
Counsellor, Douglas College