It's OK not to be OK, unless you're an athlete

Darren Roberts is a huge fan of memes...he whiles away the hours flamming adult P.E. teachers (S&C Coaches) and National Governing Bodies on Instagram but his best work, in my opinion, is when he puts pen to paper to either write a book (follow the link at the end of this post to check out his superb work) or write a longer blog post.

A couple of weeks ago I read one of his pieces on mental health and I asked if I could share it on my website. Darren said yes (mainly because I know what happened in Vegas in 2018!). Have a read, check out his other posts and let me know what you think.

If Naomi Osaki had not withdrawn from Roland Garros and had tragically taken her own life, the outpouring of 'if only she spoke out and said something' would be overwhelming, except she did speak out - and she was roundly turned on by the president of French Tennis.

It's ok not to be ok - unless you're an athlete of course.

Anyone in a perceived position of privilege such as an athlete simply isn't allowed to 'not be ok'. They have such privileged lives, their experiences must be overwhelmingly positive - so they can't 'not' be on point 24/7. 

"How can someone who suffers from anxiety be able to perform on world stages in front of a crowd?" The inference is they're making it up.

When we use language such as; "they need the fans", "we pay their wages", "do they want our attention or not", "must be soooo traumatic getting paid to do sport” - think about that logic, and would 'fans' apply it fully to someone else?

Would we say to someone in a GP's office "yeah but your experiences are overwhelmingly positive and most of your family treats you well don't they? And you managed to come here today so how bad can your anxiety be?" To dismiss their mental health concerns? The duality we apply to professional athletes - or indeed anyone we perceive to be in a better position than us - is staggering.

I've been exposed to too many veteran suicides, and the parallels between the athlete suffering in silence and the veteran suffering in silence are tragically painful to see and experience. Everyone in sport plays their part, whether consciously or unconsciously - perceptions and prejudices pointing us down a path of groupthink we absolutely wouldn't think were it any other person but an athlete.

As for the president of French Tennis, his reaction is on record and his follow up simply an expression of the doublethink/doublespeak you find at the root of most things.

Sport is not normal life, it's a goldfish bowl where perception is often greater than reality.  To expect athletes to be somehow impervious to very real human emotions, doubts, desires, fears and the enormous pressure they put on themselves AND an expectant fan base are nonsensical.  If you experience the full range of emotions, that is normal, you should feel them.

Understanding them, that's the next step.

Embrace The Chaos - This book gives you a roadmap for your coaching journey, from other action sports coaches and more importantly - from the athletes themselves.

Sweeping Leaves In The Wind - Hopefully this book can show any veteran, serving, or anyone that reads it there is hope and help out there - you are not alone.

Alone In A Crowded Room - Putting together the first book 'Sweeping Leaves In The Wind', I was inspired by Neville Johnson's words. Here was a soldier trying to make sense of his thoughts, feelings and likely his reality through poetry.