The price of success for professional athletes

Victoria Kirova, Features Editor

All around the world, professional athletes are looked upon for their passion and dedication to their sport. They are some of the most recognized and influential people in the world, however, along with the fame comes extreme pressure that leads to a vast amount of stress on their minds and bodies. 

Athletes have the impossible task of partaking in rigorous training regimens that require immense amounts of body strength. They are expected to perform at the peak of their abilities during every single one of their games or competitions, while striving to meet the expectations of their fans and the media. This leads athletes to place winning over a vital aspect of life, mental health. 

The constant suppression of their mental health has caused athletes to battle dire mental circumstances, whilst preparing for the next challenge in their careers. While this ceaseless cycle remains, athletes are beginning to do something that was previously unheard of; they are opening up about their experiences with the public in order to educate them on the realities of their profession. 

An example of this is Michael Phelps, a 23 gold medalist swimmer, who has been vocal about his struggles with substance use and depression. His honesty and acceptance of his battle with mental illness led to his breakthrough that it is “okay to not be okay”. By accepting this, Phelps was able to receive the guidance and resources he needed to deal with the extensive stress he was under. 

Similarly, other athletes have prioritized their mental health by making the controversial decision to step down from the competitions they were supposed to attend. Two prominent instances of this are both Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles. Osaka dropped out of the Roland-Garros (The French Open) after being told she was obligated to participate in the press conferences, despite the anxiety they cause athletes. With her actions, Osaka showed that nothing is more important than taking the necessary actions in order to ensure her well-being.

In addition, Simone Biles’ decision to not compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics solidified the fact that mental health is important for everyone, regardless of the level of skill or ability the individual is at and the significance of the event. According to USA Today, Biles had a long year and said that, “we should be out here having fun and sometimes that’s not the case.” Biles justified her decision by stressing the fact that sometimes the hiatus from the sport allows an athlete to remember the fun parts about it, which is crucial. 

While these athletes still faced extreme scrutiny from the media for their decisions, they made the ones necessary to preserve their affection for their sports and end the stigma surrounding mental health. With everything in life, stepping back and taking the time to rest and heal from experiences is essential to the growth and development of an athlete, as well as a person in any profession.