Mental Health and Sports

Abby Wexler, Staff Writer

“Sports can bring you so many wonderful things, but they do require extreme sacrifice. But it’s never worth sacrificing your self worth, your mental health, even relationship with family.”

– Gracie Gold, Olympic Figure Skater


For such a long time, mental health has been an issue that was not addressed because of the negative stigma around it. However, in recent years mental health has become more of a transparent topic with many people speaking out about their personal issues, including some celebrities. Unfortunately, there is still an area where mental health is not addressed as much as it should be.

Mental health issues are ignored in the sports industry, a place where it is extremely rampant among athletes. Whether it be practices, teammates, coaches, or injuries, the world of sports can instill mental health issues into athletes. Why is it ignored in the world of sports? Perhaps it is because of the standard athletes are held to.

When someone thinks of an athlete, the words “tough,” “strong,” and “fearless,” come to mind, while the words “anxious,” “depressed,” and “broken,” are the last thing one would expect. This is the stereotype of being an athlete: someone who is resilient. This stereotype bleeds into high school athletes too. When you are seen as the “jock,” varsity football captain, or even just a high school athlete in general, your biggest fear is to be seen as weak.

As an athlete, I have faced mental health issues from sports. I am not classified by a doctor as having a mental illness, but I am familiar with the feelings of anxiety. I have my moments of not being able to think about school work because of my anxiety caused by going to practice or making a mistake in my sport. This restrains me from being the best version of myself. I play two high school sports and see this not only with myself but with my teammates as well.

The immense amount of pressure in sports also strains one’s mental health. Allyson Lyons, a senior at Stamford High who plays Varsity Field Hockey and Varsity Softball shared her experience about the pressures she feels because of sports. She says, “A lot of the times athletes feel an unhealthy pressure from their coaches to make them happy, to step up and be the leader they’re looking for, to be the “coachable” athlete, to be the game-winning scorer. It’s all about the statistics, batting average, field goal percentage, percent missed, how many sacks this quarterback has at their homefield, etc.” This pressure can affect an athlete outside of the field—both during school and at home.

Mental health is ignored too often, especially with high school athletes. The stigma with it needs to change. The way to accomplish this is by making room for mental health in our discussions more often and to take this issue into account.