The importance of mental health for student athletes

LEXINGTON, Kentucky (WKYT) — We sometimes see athletes as superhuman, but when the game is over, and the bright lights go out, they are often left with the mental difficulties of performing at a high level.

I wasn’t thinking right even when I was in court, I wasn’t fully in court,” said Jacob Tobin, a senior UK official. “So it was really difficult for me.”

After a game in early January, Kentucky senior Jacob Tobin opened up about his psychological struggles.

“Honestly, I may have hit rock bottom,” Tobin said. “There was no bottom before this match. So I just tried to focus on climbing out of the hole I was in, and I took a step forward today.”

“When you find yourself in that place, let people know where you are mentally I think,” said Andre Reddick, former Kentucky basketball player. “Having people close to him who are able to get to him and connect with people he trusts.”

Andre Reddick is familiar with the mental struggles of playing basketball at a school like Kentucky. The former Wildcat says he has had his own struggles during his football career.

“Coach (Rick) Pitino prepared me to go into a sports psychologist, and I met him and worked through a few things,” Reddick said. “It really helped me. That is one of the reasons why I am a counselor today, because of my experiences during that time.”

These days, Riddick is a licensed professional counselor in Lexington, helping those who, like Toppin, deal with mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

“It’s never happened because I’m an athlete, I’m not human, and I don’t have things I need help with or need to talk to someone about,” said Riddick. “It’s a fact that we need to move away from looking at athletes as superheroes who don’t have problems but as superheroes who do. problems already. “

A recent NCAA survey found that 30% of student athletes say they feel extremely fatigued, with 25% reporting mental exhaustion. Another study reported that 31% of male and 48% of male NCAA student athletes reported experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety.

“We did a lot of work, and it wasn’t done on the court,” said Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari. “You’ve had men feel the weight of the world, and that’s why you said it’s not life or death.”

While performance anxiety is not unique to athletes, it can be elevated by their own external and visible stressors through things like social media.

“I know I don’t care about it. I don’t know they don’t know,” Calipari said. “Sometimes I think they read this stuff. You just can’t. It’s a different time and age. You know, it’s funny that I was sitting with Jeff Sheppard. I said Jeff, what if you had social media at that time? “

“I think as athletes look at their dreams and look to their future, a lot of times they miss the moment, and it’s sad,” said former Kentucky basketball player Jeff Sheppard. “You don’t have to miss the moment.”

Jeff Sheppard was a member of two Kentucky national championship teams in 1996 and 1998 and remembers feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders.

“The best thing about Kentucky basketball is the expectations,” Sheppard said. “The worst thing about Kentucky basketball is the expectations.”

That’s the advice he gives his son Reed, one of the top high school prospects in the country, who will be suiting up for the Wildcats next season.

“We say to him, ‘Do you know who is responsible for my mental health?’ My teammate and I said,” Sheppard said. “When that relationship exists, then we have two people working. Now we have three people working. Now we have twelve people working. Now we have a whole community working, now we can win.”

It is the team mentality that helped Jacob Tobin get back into the right frame of mind.

“I’ve had a lot of support from my teammates and my coaching staff, and it’s good to be back to my old self,” Tobin said. “I feel good mentally and physically. So we are moving forward and trying to improve as a team from here.”

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