IHS Athletes Mental Health

Though physical activity has some tremendous benefits for mental health in teens and adults, this doesn’t mean that athletes have amazing mental health. Being an athlete comes with its own set of anxieties that someone who isn’t as active in sports would not experience as much. The need for perfection, or the worry of body image, along with possible external pressures, are some examples. 

The need for perfection is something that I personally have struggled with growing up. I grew up an athlete myself, so learning that I didn’t have to be perfect all the time was something that I learned with time. For Grace Sorensen, it also took a bit to realize perfection is not normal. “I was used to being the best, but it did take me a good amount of time and emotional turmoil to get over that and realize that sometimes you can’t be perfect,” she said. Oftentimes athletes at a young age will beat themselves up over mis-performing in their own eyes. Most of the time it doesn’t even take external opinions to influence a way an athlete feels about themselves or their performance. The need for perfection can influence other aspects of an athlete’s life as they get older which can lead to a bad self image when things don’t go the way that was wanted. 

Body-image can become a problem more when an athlete hits his or her teenage years. For example, feeling like you are never in good enough shape to succeed in your sports can deteriorate someone’s self esteem and cause self destructive behavior. One could possibly push themselves too much to the point of physical pain or injury or possibly cut down calories or carbs to extreme levels and cause possible eating disorders. 

External pressure can come from coaches, parents, and teammates. Children and teens never want to let other people down the majority of the time. Feeling pressure from not just yourself for wanting success, along with other people, can make someone feel as though they are trapped and that bad things will happen if they don’t perform the way that they are supposed to. This can cause extra stress and have negative effects on the mental health of teens. Coaches now-a-days are more aware of how they can affect their players. Ipswich High school Varsity Volleyball Coach, Staci Sonke says, “Before I was the coach, I was the athlete. I know how hard it can be to juggle it all with school and sports; I never want to create extra stress for my girls,” she explained. 

In conclusion, the mental health of teens and children can be affected positively or negatively by sports. But it is something that people can get better with over time. In my personal experience, my mental health gets better when I am playing sports, though it wasn’t always like that. It took me years to feel confident in the way I performed and let sports positively affect my life. But I know that it is the same experience for others as well, so I think that it affects people differently