In sport we often assume that elite athletes are super human. We watch the likes of Ronaldo, Jessica Ennis and Andy Murray all perform at such high standards, producing skills and using psychological strength to overcome challenges and adversity. Within the media we hear about the lavish lifestyles which these athletes live, with buying Ferraris, Porsches, 7 bedroom mansions and going on holiday to some of the best resorts in the world.
Sometimes we forget that athletes are just like every other person. They will go through the same stress, struggle and pain that every person goes through. They have to manage not only their family life but also their sport life. They have to train 5 days a week including mornings and afternoons. They have to go through gruelling routines of working out, staying active and eating healthily. The athletes have to be aware of their social lives. For some athletes the media follows them wherever they go and recently we have seen examples of athletes been caught smoking or taking drugs.
Some of us reading this article might be thinking ” They are being paid thousands of pounds every week, so how can they complain?”. As the saying goes “Money does not bring happiness”. There have been a number of studies researching money and happiness and yes money can bring short term happiness to people, however sometimes the more money someone is receiving, the more money they want to fulfil their happiness.
Being an elite athlete takes hours and hours of dedication. It takes sacrifice that many athletes have to go through to reach their goal. Imagine spending days or months away from your family every year to play sport. Imagine going home to your family after being away for 2 months and then knowing that 2 weeks later you have to go away again for more tournaments. For most of us we see the fun side of sport. We see the side of sport where players love what they do. What we don’t see and realise is the pressure and stress that athletes most go through. We have interviewed a number of athletes over the last few months and many of them talk about the extreme psychological demands of sport. One football player mentioned that the hardest challenge that he had to face was the media and fans. Imagine being an athlete and waking up every week to read something negative about your performance. How would you feel?
Within sport, there is still a stigma attached to mental health. In male dominated sports masculinity often plays a role within this process. Male athletes believe that seeking help will reduce their masculinity and status within a team. Most people are often scared or worried to seek help regarding mental health issues. They assume that they will be be treated different by people. The statistics show us that
Throughout our lives we are all going to experience stress, anxiety or sadness. How we manage or deal with those issues is important. The support we receive from family and friends will influence how we feel, behave and act.
Over recent years we have seen a number of athletes speak out about their mental health issues including Clarke Carlisle and Jonathan Trott. However, are athletes being given enough support surrounding mental health issues? Do athletes have accessibility to a sport psychologist or clinical psychologist if needed? Are athletes within all sports and at all ages being educated about mental health? The only way in which we can reduce the stigma is if we do so as a sport community. The sport community must come together to increase the awareness of mental health. The more accepted that this is the more that players will feel comfortable to seek help and even speak about their experiences.
We want to know what people think about this issue? If you are an athlete or coach please feel free to leave your comments in the section below. We want to know whether you think you are being given enough support surrounding mental health issues.