The Stress of the Game
For many student athletes, their sport produces more stress and anxiety than the classes they are taking.
Competing at the college level can be extremely unnerving for athletes. “During liberals, I had a panic attack in the bathroom,” said Morningside swimmer Hayley Folsom about competing at a high stakes swim meet.
Competing at the collegiate level is very different than competing at the high school level, it feels like so much higher stakes to these athletes. “Even meets that aren’t very high stakes I want to do good because I’m afraid of failure, I get really worked up about it and it and it almost makes it worse,” said Beth Ruton a Morningside College swimmer.
According to Bobbi Meister, Morningside College counselor, many athletes do have a difficult time with competing, especially when their best is not good enough. “How [athletes] are competing as a college athlete may be their personal best, but compared to the rest of the field it may not seem good enough,” said Meister.
According to Mental Health America many of these collegiate athletes have “access to top athletic trainers, and other physical modes of healing, but lack support for the illnesses and struggles we face internally.”
Many colleges have begun looking into mental health support for collegiate athletes. Especially due to relevant levels of depressive symptoms found in a quarter of collegiate student athletes according to the Division of Sports Medicine at Drexel University.
Along with limited access to mental health professionals there is also a stigmatizing culture in athletics that keep athletes from seeking help to deal with their mental health issues reports the NCAA.
“Due to fear of looking weak or being judged, I hid my condition from those closest to me, including my coaches and teammates.” said former Notre Dame offensive lineman Aaron Taylor.
There are also countless stressors that can impact a student athlete’s mental health like “the expectations of their sport, and the everyday stress of dealing with relationships, academic demands, and adjusting to life away from home,” reports the NCAA.
Although these athletes are under extreme stress and are adapting to life at college many of them rely on their sport to help them battle with their internal issues. Ruton said: “Its honestly a release but it can definitely be overwhelming and it takes a certain amount of mental toughness.”
Dave Nash, the cross country and track coach at Morningside College agrees that mental health is problem for athletes. “I feel like its an ongoing challenge not just for freshman athletes but in life also,” said Nash.
The Cross Country team at Morningside is known for their positive spirit. “In the grand scheme of things, it’s not the end of the world.” said Nash about the pressures of competing. Some of his athletes may argue that his positive, low pressure, coaching philosophy is what allows them to achieve.