The Sports Bias


Whether it be football, basketball, or tennis an increasing amount of high school students currently spend their afternoon hours participating in school sports. Most schools actively encourage students to take up some sort of athletic involvement within the school, preaching the bonds that students will build and the life lessons they will learn, not to mention the benefits that athletic involvement will have when it comes time for students to apply to colleges. However, what is not discussed is the possible damages to students’ mental and physical health that can follow athletic participation.
Out on the courts or on the field students are put in a completely different social environment from the classroom. They are expected to transform themselves from students into athletes, this transformation also changes what behaviors and actions are socially acceptable from both the coaches and athletes around them. The motivation and support that athletes receive from those around them, and especially their coaches can have a major effect on the mental health of athletes. Studies have shown that one of the most effective ways to reduce anxiety and the negative mental and physical effects of performance pressure is for their coaches to provide a sufficient amount of social support. However, when coaches fail to provide student-athletes with this support it can have the opposite effect on the health of athletes, causing anxiety and mental duress levels to spike. Unfortunately, some coaches are not able to or do not take the time to provide each athlete with the necessary emotional support, oftentimes leaving out a select few, causing them to feel left out and unimportant.
Being left out by coaches, and sometimes other athletes, causes athletes to push themselves over the edge, believing that in order to be noticed they need to dramatically increase their athletic performance. This is not good for the mental health of athletes and this can even cause them to do physical damage to themselves.
In order to help prevent this from happening, student-athletes should look out for each other, make sure that their friends and teammates are not feeling left out, and receive the support they need to help them feel accomplished. And if a coach is failing to include everyone, athletes should take it upon themselves to call out this behavior and advocate for a change. After all, no one should have to sacrifice their mental health for the sake of a sport.