TW: self harm
According to definitions.net, student athletes are full-time students and athletes at the same time, who are participants in organized competitive sports sponsored by the educational institution in which they have enrolled.
Student athletes need a stronger mentality compared to other teenagers because it takes blood, sweat, and tears to perfect their game, and yet they still need to come home from grueling practices to finish up their homework and study. Athletes push themselves to the limit, expecting themselves to be improving every session. They become people who start excessively worrying about success and have little to no time for mental health checkups and self-care.
I can assure you that of that 166,000,000 results that pop up in Google when you type “how to relieve stress”, 165,999,999 of the results will tell you to do more exercise. Almost all athletes search this on Google at least once in their entire life. Telling them to exercise when their stress comes from exercising, is claustrophobic for many.
All the things a student athlete has to work on every day surrounds stress. School and training are the two main places where stress stems from, and going home to face another pile of work adds on to the overwhelming pressure. Student athletes who self harmed and gave in to drug abuse are people who struggled to find their oasis, their safe place. They all could not find a suitable place for them to lower their ego and let themselves destress.
HOW PARENTS ALWAYS EXPECT STUDENT ATHLETES TO DO WELL
“I paid for your hotel fees.”
“I paid for your rackets.”
“I paid for your competitions”
“I paid for your trainers.”
“I paid for your school fees.”
“I paid for your tutors.”
The parents of a student athlete spend time, money, and energy to make sure their children do well both academically and sports wise. The amount of money they put in just for equipment and coaches is overwhelming for some people, and some families struggle to pay for what their children need and force their children to give up on the sport due to financial issues. Student athletes therefore face immense pressure to make sure the money their parents put in doesn’t go to waste. Parents expect their kids to do well because they believe that they have everything they need to succeed, materialistically. They have these beliefs because most of them have never been in a situation like their children before, they do not understand that when pursuing a sport there will be times we find ourselves stuck in a slump for a while(it can be up to years). In some rare cases, the parents were once athletes themselves in the older generation. Back then they never had enough resources like we do now as the sport has evolved throughout the years. This leads those parents into believing that with what their children are having now, they will not face any hardships because they have everything to help them like cameras for analysis, better equipment and better training environments. Some scold their children because they couldn’t live up to their parent’s expectations and some end up losing their family because of this. The burdens the children carry results in the pressure building up, and slowly, living at home becomes living in a toxic environment of parents forcing them to do well instead of asking what their children need, whether it’s a therapist or even basic emotional guidance.
HOW STUDENT ATHLETES ALWAYS EXPECT THEMSELVES TO DO WELL
Failure is such a hard thing to process after you’ve put in all the hard work. Student athletes expect themselves to put out the best results they can possibly achieve because of the desperation to gain confidence that what they’re doing is the right decision and the right path. The amount of effort you put in determines your result. Student athletes know that best. Juggling school work and their own sport takes so much effort and grit, and what they all want is to see results whenever they can be assessed. The tournament in front of them determines how much more work they need to put in, and how their efforts paid off.
DYING PASSION FOR THE SPORT
As student athletes grow up and start to understand the whole recruiting process for colleges and start to understand how being a student athlete helps them get into a better college, playing the sport becomes a chore. All of a sudden, they stop feeling the freedom and happiness of being on the court and start to feel claustrophobic and panic. Student athletes start dreading going to practice and purposely get there late so that they can skip some of it. The hatred and the fear stems from the stress of needing to be the best amongst other competitors in order to be admitted into a better college. Most student athletes are blinded by the outcome and results, they tend to start unconsciously neglecting their passion for their respective sport and forget the reason why they have gotten so far or started in the first place. This is the phase when some student athletes start quitting the sport they're playing because of the hatred of the sport and the overwhelming stress they can no longer handle.
When committed deeply into a certain sport, there is no doubt that people would base their own self worth on how well they do. Losing a game they should have won makes them stupid. Running slower than another athlete makes them weak. Struggling with mental health makes them worthless. One bad day completely ruins one's self confidence. The sport they play becomes their everything, as a student athlete. Everything they do is based on what they need to do in order to be the best one out there. They run, eat less, and go for double sessions because of their need to succeed. Because of their need to confirm their self worth. It’s a toxic mindset to be in. But it’s a mindset that most student athletes struggle with. This shows that the student athlete with the strongest mindset is always one step ahead of the others.
GUILTY OF BREAKS
Every time student athletes get a rest day, they always feel guilty about it because their rest day could be someone else’s gym day. Every second of rest means every second of success for their competition. This causes them to lack respect towards their own bodies and push themselves past their limit to make sure that they are never left behind physically. They stop taking days off to make sure they are always working more and working harder than other people. Student athletes tend to forget that having a rest day is just as important as having a gym day. Resting your mind and resting your body is also a type of training student athletes need to have.
AFTERMATH OF INJURIES
Facing injuries as an athlete is inescapable, it’s only a matter of magnitude. The hardest time for an injured athlete is not being injured but recovering from it. Some are bed ridden, some can’t do specific actions in training, some can't train as much as they could before, these situations generate a sense of hopelessness and helplessness inside athletes, this is just a case for a professional athlete.
For student athletes, they carry more load than just having to focus on their recovery; they also have to catch up on what they have missed in school. With the path to fully recovering looking wretched, most athletes can’t make it past the injury even if they are physically fully recovered. What kept them from doing so is the trauma that is buried in them resulting in burdens. Some are afraid of being injured again so they don't train as hard as they used to, some might be afraid of not being able to perform as well as they have before which holds them back in training, some can’t accept that the injury has post limits on them since they can’t accept that it affects their results they might even give up on the sport, the list goes on and on.
Student athletes feel like no one understands what they are going through so they don’t open up about it, but the stress injured athletes carry are heavy so some might result in unhealthy coping mechanisms like self harm or drugs. What the athletes should do is to open up to a friend, a professional or anyone they trust so that the weight doesn’t drown them.
How it affects student athletes:
Grades start to drop
View the physical demand of being a student athlete excessive and non-productive
Quit / give up on the sport
Signs of burnouts:
Diminished performance in both academics and sports
Higher heart rate and blood pressure
Difficulty in concentration
Emotionally unstable (mood swings, disinterest, etc.)