When is it time to truly let go?


Health has been and will always be important, whether that be in one’s everyday life or in most cases athletes in sports. However, many athletes tend to look past one health aspect that can make or break one’s performance: mental health. 

Throughout sports, it is no surprise when an athlete is dealing with competition because sports are made to have others compete with one another. Nonetheless, many of these athletes tend to push themselves past the breaking point to gain higher status in the sports world. For instance, many athletes create this persona or ideal to be the perfect representation of what they should be in that sport. This allows an athlete to have this drive to compete to achieve that standard that he or she sets for oneself; however, this drive can also leave these individuals feeling unsatisfied with how they performed.

I can personally relate to this concept because of one of the sports that I participated in for eleven years. For the longest time, I was a competitive swimmer, and swimming had been known to be a very individual-based sport. One aspect that others do not realize though is how much these athletes are placed against one another, whether that be a friend or foe. Even though I have gained some of my closest friends from this sport, there was always this underlying factor of wanting to always be on top no matter what, and with that comes the pressures of always having to perform at one’s best. There were times when I performed fine but because of the standard that I placed for myself, I could never be where I wanted to be, and over time, my body paid the price. 

Not only do athletes feel pressure from themselves, but they also feel pressure from those around them and some of those can include parents, coaches, and even teachers. In many instances, these people show how much they care about an athlete and their performance, and they sometimes even express to the athlete, in many different ways, how much this truly means to them. This then leads to the athletes not wanting to disappoint or back down when it becomes too much for them to handle. For me, I dealt with this because I was scared of the disappointment aspect. I knew how much my parents and my coaches invested in me to get me to where I was. This then pushed and propelled me forward to work towards being the best swimmer I could be, but everything good must come to an end, and for me, that was injuring my shoulder. Even with the constant pain that I was feeling, I could not muster up the words to tell the people that had supported me for years that I needed to stop. The choice to end would soon advance toward me when I realized that the love that I used to have for this sport had drifted away. Every practice, every meet, every set, and every car ride became something that I would dread rather than something I would yearn for. In the end, after two long years of pain and sadness, I would finally grow the confidence and courage to tell my parents and my coaches that my time in swimming had come to a bittersweet end. 

Although not every athlete has to end his or her carrier in this way, more than not, athletes still deal with the pressures thrown their way both from themselves and others. It is a lesson for an athlete to learn how to express how he or she is feeling rather than shoving those emotions down and pushing forward. These athletes need to be reassured that what they are feeling is valid and that they are human. It is perfectly fine to feel the fatigue, the burnout, and sometimes even the breaking point because love and interest can change. It is a lesson that many can learn that being able to walk away from something that is not healthy for you is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength. Life is too short to have to suffer through something that does not bring you joy anymore.