Athletes lead conversations on mental health

Paris Estrada, Reporter

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics has sparked interest around the world, for one person especially. Simone Biles, the 24 year old gymnast who recently announced her withdrawal during the Olympics from several olympic events causing many different opinions to take face. One of the most important conversations that was brought up was the pressure that many athletes face while practicing and competing in their sports. Oftentimes these athletes face immense amounts of criticism and hear countless others opinions. However, it’s not always the fault of the general public. This stems back to even high school sports, where athletes have little time for anything besides their sports and struggle to stay afloat in school. 

When taking a closer look at some athletes from the surrounding areas the pressure against their mental health was even clearer than before. In a recent poll out of 191 students 86% reported that they feel that the intensity of their sports was enough to negatively affect their mental health. Marco Palfafox, a junior who participates in wrestling, football, and track recently gave his opinions on high school athletics. He admitted that football overall put the most stress on him, especially after suffering a serious injury. At the end of his sophomore year he tore his ACL, undergoing a 7 month process of recovery. During his recovery he said that he “skyrocketed down because I felt like an outlier and helpless”. These sports had such a large part in Palafox’s life that he felt like an athlete first and foremost, and wasn’t even able to focus on himself during one of the most difficult injuries he could have.

 Another student, Ryan Liu, had a similar opinion. When asked how Sanda -a full contact combat sport- affected him he admitted that he did quit his sport at one point “not because I got hurt but [because] I hurt other people”. These experiences don’t only affect the person themselves but they can also affect everyone around them. He talked about feeling so bad about how his fighting affected others. This regret came from the fact that while fighting “I accidentally hurt other people too much while defending myself”. This perspective really showed the risks that can come with different sports, especially ones of high intensity. These accounts make what was already somewhat known very clear. Athletics are extreme stressors that affect anyone from a high school football player to an olympic gold medalist. 

With correlation between Simone Biles’ leave and high school athletes’ mental health, it is clear to say there is an underlying issue. However, there is no clear say of what those issues may be: over-working, lack of social contact, major injury, etc. It really is something to take into consideration while joining a sport. However, Biles is back in the 2020 Olympics, Palafox is healed, and Liu is back in Sanda, there is still something to look forward to. Passion, happiness, or the world rooting for you.