College athletes and the pressure


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TIGIST FICKEN

The Mirror

Athletes work tremendously hard, putting in extra time and effort so that one day they can become a college athlete. This goal has become realistic and achievable for several students. Unfortunately, these college athletes face immense pressure academically and athletically, causing mental health issues a stigma and sign of weakness to bring forth.

Victoria Garrick is a college volleyball player at the University of Southern California.  In 2017 as a junior, Garrick was named VolleyMob NCAA Regional Dream Team and received the honors for All-Academic Honorable Mention. The following year, Garrick was appointed as the libero player, a position in volleyball where the best defender on the court receives longer time and, in the critical moments, plays all six rotations without substitution.

In the 2017 TedTalk, Garrick explained the pressure and expectations that fall on athletes. In her presentation, Garrick informed that one out of four people suffers from mental issues. Periodically Garrick mentioned how the majority of the society tends to stigmatize mental issues making the subject a disgraceful and dishonorable topic.

Garrick referenced back to her freshman year of college volleyball season when she was doubted by her coaches. Unlike some teammates, Garrick was not the accoladed athlete nor was she a top recruit athlete.

Garrick said, “ I emailed the coaches every day. I called them every week. I went in for extra reps in high school. I sent them my videos and I called them again until they let me walk on.”  

During her freshman season, against all odds, Garrick succeeded. Her hard work, determination, and zest for the game made her a starter. She competed in all  Pac-12 matches and led her team to the championship.

After the season Garrick felt a sudden change. She became more anxious, occupied with thoughts about her athletic performance, felt exhausted mentally, and worried about school. Garrick spoke about receiving counseling once a week but felt hesitant and uncomfortable.

The cultural expectations and the social media platforms resulting in substantial pressure for teens to be perfect, look decent, live luxurious stress-free lives. Garrick said she was one of the individuals scrolling through her Instagram, comparing her life with others.  Many times she felt discontent and depressed with her life as a college athlete.

Garrick later admitted being diagnosed with major depressive disorder with features of anxiety. She received therapy, took medication, and practiced positive thinking. She, like so many athletes, had a difficult time acknowledging her illness. As a college athlete, you tell if you have a broken bone or experienced an injury during a game, or got a concussion, but can’t tell you are the athlete dealing with a mental disorder.

Mental illness is associated with weakness and an athlete admitting they are weak is the last thing on their plate.

In 2015, the NCAA conducted a survey on mental issue. Which revealed that out of 2100 athletes only 30 percent reported feeling intractably overwhelmed.

Garrick was frustrated with the results and decided to construct her own survey on 100 men and women from Division One schools. When asked if any of them experiences symptoms of depression, the results showed 69.70 percent yes. The remaining 24.24 percent said no, while 6.06 percent said I’m not sure.

Garrick argued college athletes feel immense pressure from the school to being athletes. Many times these issues go unnoticed leaving student-athletes to deal with this problem on their own. NCAA needs to figure a system out that can break this epidemic.