Prioritizing Mental Health in Athletics

May is Mental Health Awareness month. This is an important topic across athletics and especially in college athletics where we see a huge impact, need and emphasis around mental health on campuses in general today. And because of that, there has been a spotlight on the topic of mental health and the best practices for tackling, addressing and supporting such an important subject.

I wrote on this topic a year ago this month. How far have we come since then?

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Athletic Identity & Athlete Retirement

I spend a lot of time thinking about the transition that occurs when individuals end their athletic careers. Things like: What happens during the transition…what it means emotionally for the person...how it affects the individual’s lifestyle…what we can be doing more of to support people as they go through the process, etc.  Despite the fact that I’ve personally experienced this transition (and currently work with individuals as they go through it) there is still much that I don’t know.

I would argue that biggest portion of this entire process deals with the concept of athletic identity and how a person manages the changes related to it. I’ve written briefly on this before and think it’s quite critical to paint a better picture of the emotions, thoughts and feelings a person experiences as they go through this change in their life.

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Why Personal Development in Athletics Needs to Start Early

One of my previous blog posts addressed the need to provide additional support for professional athletes as they retire from athletics. This is something I believe at my core. The more I continue to think about it, the more I believe we can do a better job of developing athletes as individuals across all levels of athletics. Investing in the personal development of athletes needs to happen earlier in the athlete’s career and it is the responsibility of athletic organizations at every level to do this.

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The Importance of a Strong Support Network

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post sharing some of my advice for recent college graduates as they enter the “real world.” In writing that, I realized that I have more to say on the topic of building a solid support network and its importance. I hold this concept as a priority in my life and think that we all need to feel like we are a part of something bigger and a part of a community in order to thrive in whatever it is we do each day. 

Times of transition, like graduating from college, finishing your athletic career or starting a new job can cause your network and ties to community to be in flux. This leaves you vulnerable to little support at a time when you need it most. For many athletes, the lack of community is one of the biggest issues that can surface during the transition out of athletics.

 

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What We Can Learn About Athletic Identity From Michael Phelps

Last week, renowned swim star Michael Phelps returned to competition after a six-months suspension from competition with USA SwimmingThe New York Times published this great article on his initial jump back into the water. In the article, Phelps is quoted about his career and where he’s at now on his new path in life.  

As a retired swimmer, I wonder what got him back in the water. Was it the love of the sport? Did he feel he had something more to prove or accomplish? Or was something just missing? Was swimming the only way to help fill that void? 

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