By Adam Roberts – 6/2/2021
While not a local story, I do believe what is going on involving Naomi Osaka and her decision to withdraw from the French Open is an important reminder of the constant pressure on athletes at all levels to remain the best at any cost, and some of the discussions around the story can be applied at the local level. The timing of this story is particularly apt, given that May was Mental Health Awareness Month.
The organizers of tennis’ four Grand Slams are pledging to address player concerns about mental health. This, after four-time champion and number two in the world Naomi Osaka pulled out of the French Open, citing anxiety about talking with the media and long bouts of depression. Much like in other professional and high-level collegiate sports, players are required to talk with the media, so Osaka was fined 15-thousand dollars for skipping out on reporters. She said she wants to work with the sport to find ways to make things better for players, press and fans. Organizers say they support Osaka and empathize with the unique pressures tennis players may face.
Applying this story to a local level, it’s no surprise that athletes of all levels, all the way down to your local little league, can often be placed under intense pressure to win or be the greatest like I mentioned before. Parents and coaches have the most important role in making sure our student athletes are in an environment of sports education first, and wins second. I can recall a number of friends from my past who gave up on a sport they excelled at simply since the pressure to succeed superseded any amount of fun the sport provided. I’d highly encourage anyone in a sports leadership role to place a high value on ensuring players’ mental health is as fostered as their physical health.
For more resources, check out the below websites: