Mental health toss-up

SPU athletes discuss being mentally prepared in sports, what it takes to succeed

Rita Chetty, Staff Writer

Junior Ryan Casupang exercises both his body and mind at the gym in Royal Brougham. (Megan Siemering)

For student-athletes at Seattle Pacific University, juggling life can be tough. Many struggles come with being a college student, but the pressure of being an athlete raises the stakes. While the stress increases, personal time to reflect on mental health can get low and at times, even disappear.

Junior visual communications major Charlie Hill is on the women’s track and field team and competes in the pole vault. She believes that mental health is important to address in all situations. 

 “I think your mental health is very important for not only sports, but your life in general and quality of life. It’s not going to be the best performance when your mind isn’t there, especially in track where it’s very important to focus on the priorities of the team,” Hill said.

Hill also stated that perseverance and confidence have extreme effects on an athlete’s overall performance within their given sport. 

“If you don’t feel confident, then you’re not going to be able to perform very well with all the pressure to do so. If you’re only thinking about the negatives, then you’re not going to be able to do what you want and it’s going to keep this downward spiral,” Hill said.

Senior ecology major and men’s soccer goalkeeper, Cam Welty, expressed that an essential part of being a student-athlete is being mentally prepared for the ups and downs that come with the sport.

“I think that someone that is mentally comfortable with who they are and knows what they signed up for are those that are most able to handle being a student-athlete. I think a lot of freshmen and sophomores are taken back by how much work it is, especially during sophomore year when the classes start to get harder,” Welty said.

While some might think the most important aspect of sports is the physical, many believe mental health is at the center of being an athlete.

 “Mental health is important because a lot of people think it’s just the physical aspect that affects your performance, but if your mental state is not right and you’re going through a lot of stuff then you’re not going to be able to perform, no matter what your physical state is,” Welty said.

Hill also continued with how it is very important to sometimes take a step back to clear one’s head.

“I would just say take your time, while at the same time only take on what you can handle and if you feel like you can’t do it and are feeling stressed, then take a step back and maybe not do it. You have to tell someone if you feel overworked. You can’t just keep pushing through it because you’re eventually going to break,” Hill said

Junior psychology major Austin Ibale is the setter for the women’s volleyball team and mentioned how being on a team can help teammates who are going through a lot. 

 “We do as a team, see the importance of what everyone is going through outside of practice. It is really hard to walk into practice thinking about a test that was hard, stressed about relationships or just having a bad day. We know people walk in with those things so just as a team we recognize when a teammate is off and then go up to them to ask if they are okay,” Ibale said.

Ibale also acknowledged how there are instances that the feeling of a game can stem from what is on the mind of a player. 

“It can be hard trying to push away outside things that are all in your head and then walk into the gym for a game, but you kind of have to sometimes because you know you can’t play well if you keep thinking about these outside things,” Ibale said

 When times like those appear, being able to utilize the resources on campus can be very valuable.

“Don’t be afraid to talk to someone, a roommate, coach, trainer or the SPU counseling. Given the resources we have, if you’re not comfortable talking to someone you know, there are professionals that can help you,” Welty said.

 Freshman nursing major Jaylen Wilson mentioned how in her experience of being in cheer for many years, she has realized how important it is to find a meeting point between life and being an athlete. 

 “I would say you have to find a balance between life, sports and school. School is always important,” Wilson said. “I have been doing sports for a long time, almost going on ten years, so it was definitely hard finding that balance throughout the years. I feel that finding outlets to get your mind off of sports is very helpful and can put you in a better mindset.” 

Overall, being available for one’s self and being able to prioritize the importance of self-care can highly improve the mental state of not only athletes but college students in general.

 “Just knowing you matter as a person is important and being able to forget everything negative because, at the end of the day, you might not be doing this professionally and school won’t be forever,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be you surviving for yourself, so you need to preserve yourself for everything that’s going to happen in the long run. That includes not debating if you can do something and having the confidence to just keep on going.”