In a small New England town, a young athlete sits alone on the bus as he rides home from his lacrosse game. "I’m not good enough to play," he thinks as he cries, silently, to himself. Waves of frustration and worthlessness wash over him. These raw emotions aren’t rooted in what did happen during the game, but rather what didn’t happen, what he wasn’t able to accomplish.
He didn’t see the field at all that game, despite being a senior on the varsity team for his high school. For this athlete, senior year is the time he hoped and expected his hard work and dedication to pay off by getting more playing time and likely a starting position. This wasn’t the first time this athlete has felt inadequate this season as a progression of mistakes and poor performance have led to less and less time on the field; but for his high school lacrosse career, this bus ride with the team will be his last.
I want to dedicate this post to the athletes who are silently struggling, feel alone and isolated and who are convinced no one understands what they’re going through. The past few years have brought us several social movements that have demonstrated the importance of the value of sharing in a public forum to connect with others through shared experiences and common humanity. What we’re seeing in sports, in particular, is an increased perception of the importance of mental health and wellness with the likes of Serena Williams, Kevin Love, DeMar DeRozan, Brian Dawkins, Brandon Marshall, Michael Phelps, Imani Boyette and Allison Schmitt (in no particular order) standing up and speaking out about their personal experiences with everything from generalized anxiety issues in sport to depression, bipolar disorder, panic attacks and more.