Mental Health of Young Athletes

Mental Health of Young Athletes

August 24 2022 TalktoAngel 0 comments 390 Views

Sport and physical activity have positive physiological, psychological, and social consequences on youngster’s mental health. The neurophysiological effects of exercise include the biological advantages; psychological advantages include the growth of competence, confidence, and higher self-esteem; and social advantages comprises rise in social integration, cohesiveness, and shared objectives.

By providing a platform for developing life skills like perseverance, team spirit, leadership, and communication skills, sports, purposefully promotes positive mental health outcomes including young athlete's physical health and psychosocial development. According to a recent review, sports may help youngster and teenagers develop positivity by teaching them how to handle stress, create goals, take responsibility for their actions, persevere when things become tough, and be independent. They can also help young adults make friends and gain leadership and communication skills.

According to Dr. (Prof.) R K Suri, Clinical Psychologist and Mental Health Coach, “parents have been expressing how their kid just doesn’t have “killer instinct” yet, theyare missing a drive to compete when things get tough like they do when the play is easy and they’re winning big. The killer instinct is a go getter grit mentality”.

However, elite sports activities are pushing new athletes to set higher goals, set new limits, and overshadow records set by their predecessors. Such ambition requires daily gruelling training, natural abilities, and close and extended support by expert coach, sport psychologists, medical doctors and close family and friends. But sometimes when high expectation are placed upon the shoulders of young athletes that may face following important issues in their journey: -

1.      Perfectionism and Pressure to Perform

The pursuit of perfection is characterised by a person's inclination to overly critique their actions and set high performance standards. Perfectionist athletes set incredibly difficult goals for themselves and increase their training workload. Perfectionist features may be seen positively by athletes who compete at the highest levels on a global scale.They claim that coping with perfectionism aided their athletic development and that they exhibit excellent performance as a result of these attributes.

Perfectionism is also linked to failures as it does to success. Negatively portrayed perfectionism can cause performance anxiety, rage at perceived mistakes, burnout symptoms, nervousness before competitions, self-sabotage, learned helplessness, trouble in interpersonal relationships, and poor individual and team performance.

Former Captain of the Indian cricket team, Mr. Virat Kohli recently spoke about how a sport brings the best out of an athlete but at the same time, the pressure around the game can also take a huge toll on one’s mind. The Indian Captain who struggled with depression further revealed how he coped with mental pressure and felt alone when he had people around him. He emphasised enough on the fact that young athletes need to learn how to compartmentalise their time so that there’s a balance. He further added that it takes practice like anything else in life, but its something worth investing in, that’s the only way to feel a sense of sanity and enjoyment while doing your work.

2.      Burnout

Although majority of athletes occasionally suffer signs of exhaustion and fatigue, they are almost certainly never close to more maladaptive states like burnout. Competitive athletes commonly experience physical fatigue following a long training camp or season. After brief times of recovery, the desire to practise harder and compete in new events rapidly return. However, when an athlete overtrains without any time for recovery or relaxation, it leads to burnout and sports-related concentration stress.Burnout has negative psychological and physical effects. The main sign of burnout is chronic weariness; people who are burned out experience severe emotional and physical exhaustion. Additionally, burnout has an impact on mood, cognition, motivation, and behaviour. Burnout frequently manifests as a gloomy mood, a sense of powerlessness, a lack of ambition, and a withdrawal from friends and co-workers. Additionally, studies conducted in sports environments have shown that burnout has physiological effects on immune system health, cardiovascular disease risk, and chronic inflammation of body parts.

3.      Peer conflict

Sports can be enjoyable and inspiring due to a variety of factors, or they may be boring, stressful, or otherwise unappealing. This directly and indirectly depends on participants themselves and their interpersonal relationship with coach and peer competitors. Peers often have an impact on how young athletes choose a sport, decide to stick with a certain team, devote time and effort to practise, or evaluate their competitive achievements and failures. Athlete’s peers and teammates are most influential when it comes to moulding their sporting preferences and experiences.However, when stakes are high particularly in high-level sports and there is ambiguity in outcome, effective communication and acceptable behaviour may become difficult.

Interpersonal conflict in sports often occurs whenthe athletes observe a difference in values, needs, perspectives, or goals from that of their peers. Such differences are manifested in unfavourable cognitive, emotional, and behavioural reactions. Though conflict is a natural part of athletes’relationships as they spend most of their time with their teammates and coaches. But when such conflicts are mismanaged, it can impact the effectiveness of training, alter the ways of refurbishing skills, and affect the level of mental preparedness of athletes for competition.

4.      Abuse and Maltreatment

Abuse and maltreatment are an intentional act that has the potential to injure a person physically, socially, or psychologically. Maltreatment can happen in form of relational abusewhen there is a power imbalancein a significant relationship of athletes. For instance, in a connection between a coach and an athlete, the coach significantly affects the player's trust, safety, and needs.

The causes of abuse can have more severe negative consequences on athletes who already struggle with psychological issues that might affect their ability to perform well in sports, such as excessive anxiety and low self-efficacy. Because they are less willing to ask for help and fear of disownment and neglect, the athletes undervalue the seriousness of the problem and choose to fight alone through the lows.

5.      Sports Injury

Sports injuries can be in form of acute traumatic physical harm such ascuts, sprains, strains, concussions, and fractures. They typically occur following a hit or force, such as being tackled in sports or losing control when performing. Whereas, stress fractures and tendinitis are examples of overuse injuries. These injuries are often known as chronic injuries because they develop gradually over time, frequently as a result of repetitive exercise such as rigours training session, overburdening oneself to try new skills, or pushing beyond one physical limits. Overuse injuries may not first seem serious. However, if they are not treated, they frequently worsen.

In particular, competitive, critically wounded athletes may experience despair, stress, hostility, and low self-esteem frequently after injury. It has been demonstrated that mood disturbance has a detrimental impact on participation at training sessions and appears to be related to the athlete's perception of their recovery progress.

6.      Disturbed Sleep

The cornerstone of an athlete's mental wellbeing and athletic success is good sleep hygiene. An athlete's performance might be impacted both immediately and later on by irregular sleep patterns in terms of timing, amount, and quality. Sleep issues may affect general health, accident risk, and career longevity.

Researchers found that athletes sometimes had less restful sleep the night before an important competition. Athletes' biggest issue with sleep was difficulty falling asleep, and the main factors cited for this were anxiety and competition-related thoughts. Compared to individual athletes who used relaxation and reading as techniques to have a good night sleep, more than athletes as a part of team reports that they often have no plan to deal with bad sleep. Whatever situation might be highly competitive athletes frequently endure bad sleep, and most of them are not aware of any solutions.

As an athlete, your mental health may have a significant influence on how well you perform in sports, yet this area of your wellbeing is frequently neglected. Early intervention can improve recovery from mental health issues and frequently speed up the process. When athletes encounter mental health symptoms like anxiety or depression, they frequently minimise their feelings by saying things like, "It's nothing; it will pass." But by doing so, athletes maygo past the potential to step in before issues continue or worsen. The best chances for healing come from talking to a trusted person or getting treatment as soon as you detect changes in your mental health.

For athletes, mental stress can prevent them from performing at their best. Here are few techniques which an athlete can adopt to better manage their mental health and adopt a healthy perspective when competing:

1.      Concentrate on the tasks at hand. Take the competition out of the picture and concentrate on what your body requires to be your best self. Be sure to look after your body in addition to working out and training.


2.      Get enough sleep time, good life style, eat healthy food, and balanced diet and use tactics like stretching and rest days to prevent injuries.

3.      Identify the triggers of your stress. Discuss the causes of your stress. Don't keep the things that irritate you within. Instead, confide in a friend, relative, or authority figure. One of the finest strategies to encourage healthy mental health is occasionally to speak things out.


4.      Reduce Screen Time: Excessive screen time, using gadgets and social media is a major distinction between generations of athletes. The excessive use of Screen time takes away from work time on athletic practice. It provoke sedentary activity, and life style. Excessive engagement on Social media like Insta, Facebook etc.,by young people comparing and being occupied with others some time shatter their  self-confidence, self-worth, and self-respect.



5.      Set realistic goals. Wanting to be the best at a sport is every athlete’s dream, but progress and success takes work. Re-evaluate your personal goals to make sure you aren’t pushing yourself too hard or setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. Remember why you started. The immense pressure athletes put on themselves can quickly cause burnout. Many athletes start to look at their sport as a job rather than a passion or hobby. Try to refocus your mindset to highlight why you choose this sport and how far you’ve come since you started.


6.      Consult and talk with professional certified psychologist. Let your trainer, coach or counsellor know that you are struggling. Don’t think that you can necessarily work through everything on your own. Talking to an expert therapist or counsellor can help

athletes deal with mental stress. Online counselling platforms also provides athelets to connect with an online counsellor who can help you shape, develop the tools & techniques you need to get back on track. You can easily connect with online counsellors and receive affordable online counselling.   


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