Athletes Off the Court: The Reality of their Mental Health

Photo Source; Dan Thorton, Pentucketathletics on Instagram

Photo Source; Dan Thorton, Pentucketathletics on Instagram

Emma Lopata, Writer

Mental health has always been a serious issue. But what happens when mental health starts to affect athletes? Nothing, we hide the pain.

It may be so hard for some of us to admit we have mental illnesses, yet we still all strive to push through our challenges, but what happens when that pain all becomes a little too much?

Pentucket Athletes

Just ask an Alumni from Pentucket what happens when you play a sport to bring you happiness but all it does is tear you apart. She found herself playing sports to keep her in school, but eventually, that was the reason for her mental downfall. The constant pressure to do perfectly in every aspect of life is something no one can carry, no matter how well they may be able to hide it.

However, a member of the senior class here at Pentucket states: “Playing sports allows for student-athletes to escape life for a little bit while being able to enjoy competition with other local schools. Balancing both academics and athletics can be challenging at times, but once you are able to find a routine that works for you, it truly is an amazing experience.” He explained how injuries have been a major roadblock for him and nothing but discouraging, which is the case for the majority of the athletes here at Pentucket. You work so hard to have it all taken from you in the blink of an eye. Physical injuries have had many effects on mental health, they lead us down dark paths that often lead us to believe that because we can’t compete in the athletic world, we can’t in the academic world either. It is truly a never-ending cycle of self-defeat.

The Alumni and current students seem to have similar stories and experiences. Sports tend to have kept them going, but at least at one point in their career, they have experienced mental downfalls. Due to the way the high school schedule is set up, it makes it nearly impossible for athletes to perform at a consistently high level, get and maintain good grades, still somehow find the time to get enough sleep at night, and do it all over again the next day. They may have it all together on the surface, but what true burdens lie underneath?

Olympic Athletes

Source: Ashley Pena, The Cut

This underlines a larger issue in the mental health of athletes in all fields. These past Olympic games, we watched as one of Team USA’s best gymnasts, took a stand for herself and for her team. Simone Biles states in an interview: “So, we have to protect our mind and our body, rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.” She explained how exhausting it was feeling like an object that is invincible when in reality, she is human just like all of us.


If you were to ask a member of the Pentucket girls’ Volleyball team about mental health, she would simply say, “not good.” When asked to elaborate on this idea she expressed the “pressure to feel like you always have to do perfect.” She continued by saying how one slip-up could cost an athlete anything and everything, so we are conditioned to fight through whatever obstacles we are faced with, whether they be mental or physical.

The one thing in common about all the Pentucket athletes is that they all chose to remain anonymous. Why? Because we are all so afraid to show the weaker and fragile side of ourselves. We would be judged because we seem to have everything and carry the world on our shoulders, but the truth is that some days we can’t even carry the weight of ourselves and that may be the hardest pill to swallow.

Coaches Perspectives:

Do coaches even notice or care? This is a question often brought up by athletes when addressing mental health. 

If you asked a basketball coach at Pentucket middle school level, she would agree that mental illnesses aren’t usually addressed, “but that is unintentional.” She added: “They [coaches] don’t know what to do, if they even notice it.” She also admitted that a huge factor that goes into mental health is social media and the heavy influences it has on our day-to-day lives.

Coach Casey, a soccer coach here at Pentucket high school said that some of his athletes have stated: “there are literally not enough hours in the day” to complete everything they need to get done. He stated that “people forget how much time athletes put in after school.” He went on to say how he doesn’t know how we keep going every single day.

How can student-athletes deal with their mental health when we are all conditioned to push through any and all pain? When will we ever learn when enough is enough?

The Bigger Picture

Overall, athletes and coaches at different levels have expressed that mental health is nothing but a growing issue, but ultimately nothing is being done to address it. Many athletes may be struggling and you wouldn’t have a clue. We pride ourselves on who we are on the surface because most days, it takes everything in us to get out of bed and relieve the same day over and over again.