Most athletes spend their whole childhood in a sport. They will play all year, travel, and make it a big part of who they are. Some of those athletes will make it to a professional level and some will not. What do you think happens to those athletes who put a lot on the line, or paused their lives for the sport and end up not having a chance to be a professional athlete? They venture out into a world without sports, and you can imagine the fear and anxiety after the sport that can come with. I want to focus on the population of college athletes and the challenges to their mental health that can come from this change in lifestyle.

Athletes can be very hard on their bodies and that can sometimes result in injuries, big and small. Regardless of if the injury is small- the impact is big. That college athlete will most likely have to sit out for some games or practices. If the injury involved surgery, they will be out and recovering for a long period of time. With all of that there is not a guarantee that they will be back 100%. Sometimes the injury is so bad that they cannot play again for their own safety. Imagine what they can do for someone’s mental health. This trauma is detrimental. On top of the trauma, some athletes are pushed to leave that sport and go out into a world that has not been their norm. 

I can imagine that most athletes don’t feel all the way prepared to be out in a world where their sport is not a part of their everyday life. Some athletes might be ready for the post graduate life that doesn’t involve a very tiring sport, but others might not be ready. I’m curious what those resources look like to prepare athletes for a life without the sport. Is it someone like a coach or advisor who discusses all the options to the athletes so they know what they can do after? Does it look more like the student is on their own and throughout their collegiate career they must be considering all options? 

The Mental Health Decline for Athletes- Anxiety After the Sport

For the athletes that don’t feel prepared their mental health is something that probably declines. The anxiety of figuring out the next step, altering all the plans they may have made to continue with the sport. The depression that could set in knowing that their plan has changed and not their dreams won’t work out. This transition is most likely a very tumultuous one. The self-esteem and confidence that potentially could lower because of the different lifestyle they are having to lead can be tiring and defeating. I would like to see more support for athletes in the mental health department and how they can be prepared for this change that could be traumatic for them.  

When I think about the schooling part for these individuals, I would think most athletes are not studying majors they can see themselves pursing because they see themselves going professional. Is it possible to have these discussions and a plan B in place in case the road changes? Would some of the stress lessen if these students were able to pursue a major and take classes that struck an interest? 

A part of being human is having human interactions and connections. For most college athletes they have a very strict schedule and don’t really have too much of choice on what their schedule is. College can be a very social for most, now throw in a strict scheduled and games over the weekend and the social life, besides being with your teammates, is thrown out the window. This doesn’t always happen, but when it does, I could imagine it can be hard to go into a world where you must meet people that don’t really know anything about being an athlete. Some people might enjoy that clean slate, and others not so much. 

When ‘Wining’ is no longer everything…

I think something else that is important to talk about is how for years athletes are pushed to succeed in all aspects of life but mostly in their sport and winning is everything. For someone who’s whole life was the sport they played, and they had a plan to go pro, what do you think that mentality does to someone in a world where winning is not everything? The adjustment is most likely hard and sometimes can affect their relationships, the workplace, and our mental health. This mentality can probably get worse in high pressured environments where they feel winning is the only way they could succeed. 

I feel these is a very important topic to discuss more. What are the colleges doing for these athletes that are unable to make it professional, for numerous reasons? I could see it being even more difficult for the players that identify as the minority. How can we make sure these athletes are more prepared for this future physically, emotionally, and mentally? There are many things to consider in these situations but I think it’s important to start the conversation for these individuals.

If you would like to learn more about how to manage anxiety, please reach out to an Atlanta Therapist to day.