Making Headway: Focus on Mental Health in Sports Gaining Traction

Simone Biles, a mental health champion, watches a bar routine at the 2020 Olympics

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Simone Biles, a mental health champion, watches a bar routine at the 2020 OlympicsSimone Biles and Naomi Osaka’s recent calling attention to mental health in professional sports has led counselors at Post University in Waterbury to offer advice to other struggling athletes.

This week Biles, a celebrated U.S. Olympic gymnast, withdrew from her team final to “focus on her mental health,” according to a statement put out by USA Gymnastics.

“We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being,” USA Gymnastics said. “Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.”

Osaka, one of the most renowned tennis players, male or female, in the world, also suffered an unexpected loss in the third round of the Olympic tennis tournament due to the weight of extreme stress.

“I feel like my attitude wasn’t that great because I don’t really know how to cope with that pressure, so that’s the best I could have done in this situation,” Osaka said about the loss.

The strain of professional sports on athletes can cause immense stress, performance anxiety, and burnout. Osaka and Biles have both been known to speak out about mental health issues like this. In response to their recent honesty on the topic, both have received support and sympathy on a global level.

“What I would applaud is that they’re bringing awareness to taking care of mental health in the same way as physical health,” said Aubry Fappiano, a Post University counselor.

Fappiano also said Biles showed true sportsmanship by sticking around and cheering on her teammates.

Kathryn Colby, an athletic counseling intern at Post, said Biles’ decision to pull out of the competition shows how the climate surrounding mental health has improved in recent years.

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