Pressure of performance in sports
Sports are considered to be good for mental wellbeing. But the world of competitive sports is very different. It carries a lot of pressure and expectations. Athletes are trained to develop a short-term memory from a tender age. The true impact of a competitive sport on mental health is not objectively assessed.
There is a great emphasis on forgetting bad games or bad play and looking ahead. Overthinking a split second decision can impact the future games of an athlete.
This mentality is great in the sports arena. But it also creates a lot of pressure on the athletes. This pressure increases for successful athletes who are expected to be strong and display leadership qualities. They are not allowed to display their emotions.
A competitive spirit is slowly developed in athletes since childhood. The athletes are taught numerous strategies and psychological skills to help them to deal with the daily pressures of competitive sports and build mental endurance.
Physical training given more importance
Physical training and physical wellbeing is given more importance in the world of sports. There is a lot of emphasis on starting early and training as much as possible. Adolescents training for professional sports train for hours every week to build physical endurance.
They are given a heavily monitored strict diet. They lose sleep to increase the training hours. This emphasis on physical training creates a lot of mental stress. There is a lot of emphasis on appearing fit both physically and mentally.
Whenever any athlete suffers a physical injury, he is provided prompt treatment. There is an extensive team of healthcare professionals involved to help him get back on his feet. The same cannot be said about mental strength.
There are no frameworks or guidelines to develop the sports person’s mental strength. There is an urgent need for mental health intervention for athletes. This intervention should be at the organisational level, the environmental level and also at the individual level.
Mental health and breakdowns in athletes
There are lots of factors which cause mental breakdowns in athletes. Sports-related injury, overtraining, and performance failure are some of them. Exposure to unfamiliar training environments and extended travel away from home are the other factors which cause stress among athletes.
In later years, a lack of non-athletic identity and unplanned retirement can affect an athlete’s mental wellbeing. Low social support, impaired sleep and negative life events can also expose the athlete to mental health problems.
The overlap between the primary ages of onset for most mental disorders and the years of active elite competition further makes the athlete more susceptible to mental health problems. The risk factor for mental illness varies across career phases.
Athletes suffer from mental breakdowns like everyone else. There is a stigma associated with mental illness in the world of competitive sports. This results in the athletes hiding their mental health problems from the outside world. They isolate themselves and suffer silently.
Athletes are unable to access mental health support due to lack of time and poor mental health literacy. A comprehensive framework needs to be developed which emphasises on both prevention and early intervention of mental health issues. A loving relationship with coaches and parents can improve the athlete’s mental wellbeing in his formative years.
Athletes should undergo screening for mental health issues just like they go for physical checkup. Early intervention can optimize an athlete’s mental wellbeing.
The premise of Mental Wellbeing is often ignored – be it the workplace or academics. The concept of factoring Mental wellbeing in sports is far less appreciated that it should be or it could be. For a student or an athlete – those who seek to excel must assess their mental wellbeing first. Head over to Joygraphy and take the free assessment for your mental wellbeing. Get a Joygraph and re-discover the challenge of a better performance.