by Jenna L. McDuff
You will never get married. You will never have kids. You will never be a doctor. You will quit when things get hard. You are a disappointment. This is what I was told by my college Volleyball coach. For someone who I looked up to and respected to tell me all of this, it hit me like a ton of bricks. This was my second failed attempt at college sports.
“On the line” was a sentence that I have heard a multitude of times. One night we had a terrible practice. So the whole team got lined up on the line. Next thing you know, the whistle blows and blows and blows. On what felt like our hundredth sprint, I looked over to see one of my friends face down on the turf. The trainers of course told my coach to stop. Back on the line and sprinting back and forth was what was entailed for me. This was what every single practice felt like. It was demeaning. Every practice felt like a job. I was done being told how I was not good enough when I knew I was. I stuck with it for a year before I got called into the coach’s office. I had gotten into a verbal argument with a senior who I was competing with for a spot. Basically, I was told by my coach that I was in the wrong. I told her that I was sticking up for myself. I refused to get bullied. The next day, I walked into the coach’s office and the first words were, “I quit.”
A day after I had quit the soccer team, I found myself in the Volleyball coaches’ office talking to him about joining the team. I was not planning on playing college volleyball so it was definitely an adjustment, but I enjoyed the team until this past semester. I walked into his office to tell him how unhappy I was that he was not coaching me as much and how he played favorites. The next thing I know, he is saying that I will not have kids or get married or be a doctor. I had told him that Volleyball had caused my anxiety and my eating disorder to come back. He told me that I quit when things get hard. Because of that conversation, I decided to step away. It hurt me to no longer be an athlete because that is all I have ever known.
Mental illnesses affect college athletes everywhere. 33% of college athletes quit before they graduate (Zac Aubrey Corona, n.d.). An overwhelming number of college athletes have reported depression symptoms. 7.3% of the student-athlete mortality rate is due to suicide from high stress, depression, and anxiety (Mental Health Struggles, n.d.). At Harvard, it is reported that one in four people quit college sports (Schumer, 2020). Athletes reported feeling spread too thin without any free time. One of the most threatening mental health issues in athletes is depression and suicide. This can be seen through Michael Phelps. He has spoken out about how he struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts (Staff & Staff, 2021). He is an advocate for reaching out and getting help while being heard and understood. His famous quote is, “It is okay to not be okay (Staff & Staff, 2021).”
As mentioned before, Michael Phelps is a huge advocate for mental illness among athletes. He made an app called Cerebral to allow for quick contact between person and therapist. Another therapist tool that he helped develop is the website Talkspace. This website allows for stories to be shared and therapist interaction if needed. There are other organizations such as Athletes Against Anxiety and Depression that provide sources for struggling athletes (Aaadadmin, 2021). This organization also aims to fight the stigma of mental health. One of the main goals is to provide a platform for athletes to share their stories. Part of the future goal of this organization is actually to provide resources and outreach programs for athletes. One of the major organizations that even helps with pro athletes is Athlete 365. They have a readily available hotline for any possible time that you might even want to talk (Home, 2021).
Considering that I had to hunt for organizations to help athletes, I want resources to be readily available and known to athletes. Providing them with the Athlete 365 hotline number would be a goal. Also, athletes everywhere should have the Micheal Phelps app on their phones and be able to use it whenever they need it. Overall, athletes should be provided resources by their college to help them manage being an athlete and keep their mental state stable.
Aaadadmin. (2021, August 11). Athletes against anxiety and Depression Foundation. AAAD. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://www.aaadf.org/
Home. Athlete365. (2021, October 28). Retrieved November 8, 2021, from https://olympics.com/athlete365/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=essence-paid&utm_campaign=google_cpc_us_bau_hybrid_english&utm_content=google_cpc_us_bau_hybrid_en_na_na_dynamic_na&gclid=Cj0KCQiAsqOMBhDFARIsAFBTN3dRAEHLDoxM7EEGDwuzOaQ3N2cvGdiZEoTaezAo_FyKdLwZ4DWwqMUaAlcJEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds
Mental health and athletes. Athletes for Hope. (2021, October 8). Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://www.athletesforhope.org/2019/05/mental-health-and-athletes/
Mental health struggles in student-athletes and how to prevent them. The Australian & New Zealand Mental Health Association. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://anzmh.asn.au/blog/mental-health/mental-health-struggles-student-athletes
Schumer, E. R. (2020, February 21). One in four class of 2020 athletes quit varsity teams during their time at Harvard. News | The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2020/2/21/athlete-attrition-data-2020/
Staff, & Staff, T. A. (2021, July 28). Michael Phelps on Simone Biles, mental health: ‘it’s OK to not be OK’. The Athletic. Retrieved November 8, 2021, from https://theathletic.com/news/michael-phelps-on-simone-biles-mental-health-its-ok-to-not-be-ok/nVaL238ANGo7/
Zac Aubrey Corona. BeRecruited. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2021, from https://new.berecruited.com/athletes/521209/blog/011314-36-reasons-why-33-of-college-athletes-quit-cut-or-get-asked-to-leave