Scott doesn’t call himself an addiction coach; he is a crisis coach. This phrasing is intentional. After all, most people don’t turn to addiction without first facing a mental health crisis.
Some professions cause more mental strain than others. We’ve talked about first responders, but it’s been a while since we’ve discussed mental health in sports. Soon, the Superbowl will be upon us. Football season is wrapping up, and baseball’s spring training will begin. We owe it to our favorite athletes to take a hard, honest look at how we address mental health in sports.
The pressure is enormous.
Is it any wonder athletes reach a breaking point? Whether it’s a young athlete trying to get a scholarship, a collegiate athlete looking to impress a scout, or a pro wanting to get into the playoffs, athletes are under a massive amount of pressure. For many, they can’t imagine doing anything else.
However, the truth is that only 1 in 16,000 high school athletes will go pro. At Your Own Risk cites that 54% of student-athletes have played while injured. There is an incredible amount of pressure for athletes to prove themselves and, more importantly, to make sure they don’t let the team down.
It’s easy to see how athletes can overdo it and perhaps turn to substances to help them. One more painkiller to get through the game. One more drink to take the edge off the stress. The only thing it seems that athletes aren’t encouraged to do is to seek help.
When Scott spoke with major league baseball player Bret Boone, he shared the advice he was given on how to handle the pressure of pro athleticism: work hard, play hard, and drink hard. It’s a mindset that has been passed down through generations of athletes, and it has to stop.
Change begins in high school and collegiate sports.
Many industries have been working hard to reduce the stigma around mental health issues, and we are seeing results. However, as with first responders, athletics is one of the industries in which the men are still expected to be macho, and the women are hesitant to show anything that could be perceived as weakness.
We need to make mental health in sports part of the discussion from the very beginning of an athlete’s career. Instead of lauding injured athletes as “gutsy” and “heroic,” we need to give more credit to those who openly discuss their mental health and the value of seeking help. Only by acknowledging the unique struggles athletes face and telling athletic kids from the beginning that feeling stress and anxiety is normal—and there are resources to help them—can we battle the stigma and the substance abuse that surrounds mental health in sports.
According to the NCAA, student-athletes report a higher rate of binge drinking than the rest of the student population. Sports Illustrated wrote an article on opioid abuse in student-athletes.
If you are facing a situation with a loved one, spouse, or even a child that has started to spiral, please call me at 619-993-2738.
Scott is the Founder and CEO of Confidential Recovery, an outpatient addiction treatment program in San Diego.
About Scott H. Silverman: Scott has been fighting against addiction for over 20 years, one person, speech, and book at a time. Contact Scott by calling (619) 993-2738 or visit Your Crisis Coach to learn more about Scott’s work and public appearances. You can buy a copy of his latest book “The Opioid Epidemic” here.
(c) 2022 Scott H Silverman. All Rights Reserved.