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Mental Health and Sports

How sports can affect the mental health of athletes

How sports can have a positive effect on mental health

We are exposed to competition in our everyday lives, whether it's being the best in school, sports, or in the office, humans strive to be the best at what they do, that's what makes us successful. Competition plays a massive role in our mental health, by giving us reason to have pride in ourselves. For example, if you perform very well in a basketball game and are the top player, you'll leave the game with a sense of pride and satisfaction along with others being proud of you too. Competition is invigorating, thrilling and brings out a side of playfulness in competitors.

Since I was young, I was always surrounded by teammates and their families which is why I created some of my fondest memories in sports. Sports have shaped me as a person and have the ability to teach you very valuable life skills. Not only that, but athletes usually have a healthier lifestyle and mindset because sports gives them purpose and a sense of achievement. For me, I learned from a young age on how to work with other people on a team, how to be a leader, communicate, and practice self discipline. These are only a few examples of what sports have taught me. Athletes may even learn different skills depending on the sports they partake in. There are so many aspects of sports that can lead to a happier life and a healthy mindset.

How sports can have a negative effect on mental health

With good always comes bad, and although sports can be a very positive experience for a lot of people, there are still components that can cause large amounts of stress, anxiety, and ultimately a bad mental state. From personal experience, I can speak on the fact that even though sports have been very good for me, I have still experienced down times and thoughts of failure or even quitting. Under performing in a sport that you love, can be very hard on an athlete and you may have a period of time where you feel like you are no good at the sport anymore or that you've wasted your life playing sports. You feel ashamed of your performance and even embarrassed at times. Sports can also bring a lot of stress upon athletes, for example when it is time to perform in front of large crowds and people you know.

Taking part in a sport is just as much mental as it is physical. If your opponent or your surroundings get into your head too much it may cause you to play worse or get emotional. Another element of sports that can be very bad for your mental health, is having a bad coach. I'm sure majority of athletes have had a coach that has made them feel like a failure. They can make you feel like you hate the sport that you grew up loving, or they just give you a hard time for no good reason. Bad coaching can affect players mental state even outside if sports. For example, I had a coach that was very negative towards me, consistently yelling and getting aggressive when I made a mistake, and eventually her mood began to affect my mood which affected the way I acted outside of practice and games. When I felt her disappoint in me I would get into my own head too much and question my ability and worth in the sport. It became and unhealthy relationship and her presence lead to further stress and anxiety within me. Lastly, another major factor, can be losing games. If your team isn't doing very well throughout the season and keeps losing games, it can cause divide on the team and low energy. Player may almost feel like there's no point in competing if they always lose anyway.

Overall, the mental health of athletes can be very complicated. We go through a rollercoaster of emotions throughout our careers or even just during a one hour game. As I look back on my experiences as an athlete, I am very grateful to have grown up around sports and I can recognize and appreciate the friends and memories I have made surrounding sports. There are many times I have felt down about myself and my ability, but that is part of life. I am sure any athlete would agree that just like in life, in sports, it's not about getting knocked down, it's all about getting back up.


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