Student athletes aim to squash stress

Student+athletes+aim+to+squash+stress

Lizzie Carter, Staff Writer

Student athletes juggle multiple tasks and those responsibilities mean their days may start promptly at dawn and extend into the late hours of the night. 

For senior swimmer Torie Whitbeck, her day begins with her in the water at 5:30 a.m. before school while junior Clare Kierl begins her homework after her club volleyball practice ends at 9:15 p.m. Underclassmen’s schedules look similar with sophomore Joe Coats’s day consisting of balancing school work and student council responsibilities followed by soccer practice from 3-5:30 p.m. Freshman Molly Taylor attends softball from 3-5:00 p.m. every day and babysits around seven hours a week.

These hectic schedules illustrate why student athletes must prioritize their mental health, especially since high schoolers are going through an intense period of maturing and growth. When a student decides to play a sport, senior counselor Dillon Walker says that they take on the burden of becoming a student athlete, a dual title encompassing attributes of diligence, hard work and perseverance. 

Walker explained being a student athlete encompasses a lot of responsibility for both the student and their teams so finding a balance is critical. 

“You’re a student athlete, student first,” Walker said. “Make sure you’re making the grades. If you’re not and you’re ineligible, you’re letting your team down and yourself down. But ultimately, take care of yourself. You have to learn how to balance these things.”

Being selfish isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because sometimes we do have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of other people. ”

— Senior Counselor Dillon Walker

Walker explained the human resources available to aid students struggling with stress, including coaches, counselors, teachers and other trusted adults. The first step in dealing with stress is pinpointing what the cause is for someone and that can be done by talking to a friend, a trusted parent, or one of the school counselors who are there to help. 

Junior counselor and Director of Health and Wellness Sarai Cerano noted how stress can look a little different for everybody but it is still just as important to deal with. 

“Maybe your stress for you looks like you can’t sleep at night, or maybe stress for you looks like you’re taking it out on a friend or a family member,” Cerano said. “I think being very self-reflective of what stress looks like for ourselves is really helpful.”

Cerano explained when she becomes stressed she gets migraines, but when she can decipher what is triggering her stress she uses healthy coping mechanisms to alleviate her migraines and reduce their recurrence and severity. Her coping strategies include going on walks, listening to a podcast or music, and regulating her body temperature by putting a cool cloth on her forehead. More healthy coping strategies are provided at the bottom. 

Freshman counselor Courtney Gougler said it is important to have someone to talk with about stress. 

“Talk to your coaches, talk to the upperclassmen, talk to your leaders, talk to your counselors or your teachers,” Gougler said. “Whoever you’re coming to, find somebody you’re comfortable with and talk to them. Just let them know what you’re going through. Find somebody who will advocate for you.”

Sophomore counselor Lauren Slover said student athletes often take on too much, whether that is playing multiple sports, working part-time jobs, or being involved in various clubs. Whatever the case, it is important to take care of one’s body and mind.  

“You can’t pour from an empty cup, so just make sure you’re taking care of yourself,” Slover said. “I think practicing self care, making sure you’re getting plenty of sleep, making sure you’re staying hydrated is vital. I know that sounds silly, but water is really effective in our brain health. It helps adjust our cortisol and anxiety levels, that’s good to keep track of.”

Administrator Tim McFadden offered some advice for student athletes.

“Hey, you’re all going to struggle,” McFadden said. “Every student athlete can struggle. The most successful student athlete is insecure just like the least successful. They cover it up in different ways, but we have people who love you here. Just ask for help. It’s okay to fail.”

McFadden said society has constructed a standard of perfection among athletes, and when there is a chance of that standard not being met, many athletes will ensure their failure to save face. 

Athletes should make sure they are participating in sports for a love of the game and not to let that love be overshadowed by the stress of being a student athlete.  Above all, Walker said students must remember why they are playing sports. 

“If you’re not having fun, why are we doing this,” Walker said. “Remember what it was like to be that 5, 6, 7-year-old kid. Look up in the stands and find that 5, 6, 7-year-old kid who’s watching you, and remember that you’re setting an example, but you should be enjoying what you’re doing.”

The websites linked below provide healthy coping mechanisms:

https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/sports-pressure.html

https://www.studentathleteconnections.com/manage-stress/

https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/blog/perfect-method-reduces-athlete-stress