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The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

Psychological side of sports

The harsh reality of being a student athlete
Katherine Hinners
Junior Avery Kephart lining up behind the start before her 100 meter dash. At the Jo Dusatko Omaha Central invite, Kephart ran the the 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash and 4×1. “This was my first season doing track and one thing I can say is that it taught me how important it is to take care of yourself, especially your mental health,” Kephart said. “Running is very mentally challenging, especially when you are trying to live up to others expectations, trying to manage school and not burnout. The pressure that was put on me during track definitely tested my love for this sport.”

Every year, around eight million high schoolers participate in sports, with 44% of them being involved in more than one sport. Although that number increases slowly every year, it doesn’t mean that pursuing this decision has no consequences. 

When you first join a sport, it seems like there is no way that there can be anything bad about it. You are learning how to compete and get better, make friends, put in hard work and balance sports with school. Everything seems like it is only benefiting you. You want nothing to change, but little do most people know that it can very easily go downhill and change you as a person.

Mental health is everything in sports. You can have talent in sports but if you don’t have good mental health, your talent will not benefit you for long. Oftentimes your mind can take over and cause you to leave a goal you had uncompleted. Sports is 100% mental whether you think so or not because the things that run through your mind influence your actions, and vice versa. Many athletes have outside factors that influence their mentality, which leads to negative thoughts. The pressure of having to achieve what others want, struggling with low self-confidence, fearing an injury, keeping up your good grades in school, staying physically healthy and losing passion for the sport is just touching the surface of what can impact your ability to compete. 

Over the years, student-athletes’ mental health has become a more open subject to talk about. I think the two toughest battles an athlete can endure are losing love for the sport and having to quit due to an injury. Typically, 35% of professional athletes deal with some type of mental health challenges. For example, burnout is when an athlete loses interest in their sport due to physical and emotional exhaustion. That can start to make you feel like your sport is a chore, not something you want to do. 35% of professional athletes deal with some type of mental challenge. 

Especially in young athletes, parents don’t think to talk to their children about mental health because they tend to have the mindset that their children are “too young” to have anything going on. Not only can sports damage your mental state but it can cause you to have long-term effects. Many times, coaches hold their athletes to standards that an athlete may not hold themself to for whatever reason. Coaches can make you quite serious about a sport and if you aren’t in the right mindset, it can start to make you feel like you are failing. Perfectionism and an intense fear of failure are something that sticks with many athletes, even after their sports career is over. The reason for this is due to the abuse they encountered with coaches. Whether it is verbal abuse or mental abuse, it is more likely to stick with many athletes because of the guilt they feel. 

Being committed to your sport also means you have to start being cautious. If you overwork yourself too much, you can get injured. This happens to many athletes due to the mindset that they need to “grind” and “work hard”. Overuse injuries are very common but can sometimes have life-threatening consequences. Starting sports early makes you more prone to this happening and it doesn’t benefit you, especially when you do it every day for years. 

If you no longer love the sport, then you may start to think about why you ever put yourself through that. Being in sports can cloud your judgment and cause you to not see the real view of things. Sports can teach you lessons but many toxic environments will make learning those more painful. High expectations can follow you out of sports. This can cause you to expect yourself to be the best out of everyone and be disappointed when you don’t complete a simple task. 

Lots of devoted mental and physical energy is required to do a sport if you are serious about it. Although it is a sensitive topic, you should never ignore the state of your mental health for a sport you will not do forever no matter how much you love it. 

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About the Contributor
Sophia Eljamal
Sophia Eljamal, Staff Reporter
Sophia is a junior at Millard West and this is her first year on the staff for the CATalyst. She likes traveling around the world and running. Over the summer, she traveled to numerous countries in Europe. In her free time, she enjoys going shopping, hanging out with her friends, and listening to music. She also loves to work and watch her favorite shows and movies on Netflix. Sophia looks forward to writing stories about sports and working with her classmates to produce interesting stories.

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