Sports are hard. They take everything that you have, physically and mentally. But, it’s the latter that people don’t talk about enough. When you reach a certain level in your sport, almost 90% of what you do is mental. You have to be in the right mindset to practice and perform at your best.
It can happen to anyone. You feel down, you’re not playing your best, and the dark thoughts start to creep into your mind. You have suppressed them for so long, but you just can’t do it anymore. That’s ok. You are not alone.
Luckily, some athletes have spoken out about their mental struggles. There are elite athletes saying that they go through the same things as every other Jane Doe out there.
Before the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio, ESPN did a feature article on Olympic Swimmer Allison Schmitt. The article was not about the six medals that she already owned, or about her upcoming hopes for the games. It was not about her laps in the pool. It was about her mental lapse.
After the 2012 Olympic Games, Schmitt experienced a downward spiral. It is not uncommon for athletes, or anyone, to experience a low after experiencing the highest high and epitome of success. She found herself thinking that she could not go on. She was tired, always so tired. But it wasn’t the tired feeling that she was used to after a long practice. Her mind and heart were tired. She was tired of getting out of bed and having to walk through life. Her huge, infamous smile was masking her internal struggles.
It took Schmitt awhile to reach out for help, which is not uncommon among athletes. It wasn’t until her close friend and fellow Olympian, Michael Phelps, talked to her on the pool deck one day that she realized that something was wrong. Many times athletes are afraid to talk to their teammates, coaches, or even parents because they do not want to be seen as weak. They have been conditioned to stay focused and push through the hard times.
“We have our friends, our family, our coaches, our teachers, counselors, peers, so many people out there to help us. Turn to those teammates and friends and have them help you through that time.” – Allison Schmitt
Know that it is ok to ask for help. It is ok to not be ok. You are not weak; you are stronger than ever for asking for help. We all need help sometimes.