Following master gymnast Simon Biles’ withdrawal from three Olympic events due to mental health-related reasons, many people have rallied behind her including fellow athletes and celebrities. It wasn’t until Tuesday that Biles returned to the Games with fervor and took the Olympic bronze medal for her performance on vault that she confirmed to the world that mental fitness is just important as physical fitness in the world of competitive sports. With many younger athletes looking to become Olympians, parents and coaches must be mindful of the fact that caring for mental health should be a priority along with physical maintenance.
The pressures that an athlete like Biles face pose an interesting issue regarding the mental endurance management of athletes. Though I have never, personally, been a serious athlete – I have played volleyball and softball here and there when I was young – I know that there is language used that can put a heavy weight upon our shoulders unknowingly. While they may be masked as motivational, phrases such as “never quit,” or “no pain, no gain” can take a toll on anyone, especially athletes. It is how people frequently show young athletes support in almost every aspect of their lives, including in their sport, academics, standardized testing, and work performances.
It is also important for children and young athletes to actually like the sport that they are involved in. Parents, as many of us have seen in sports movies or teen dramas, tend to project their past dreams for themselves or desires to their children and can end up forcing them to take up a sport that they may not necessarily like. It is equally crucial that parents do not strive to recreate their childhoods via their children. Realistically, having a child does not imply the child will like baseball or volleyball as much as their parent did. Children are considerably less likely to excel if they are not enjoying the activities they are participating in, or if those activities do not fit their personalities or interests.
Overall, taking care of mental health does not necessarily imply foregoing competitions. However, the contests fade away, and Biles’ most recent stance for her own mental health may be her most significant and enduring effort because of the inspiration she has instilled in young athletes everywhere. Biles can teach children about the significance of mental health to well-being and performance and can allow parents and coaches to open their eyes to the importance of it. She undoubtedly made the correct decision in stepping away from the Games when she felt she couldn’t handle it, understanding that, despite her excellent physical condition, she was not emotionally ready.