What Nobody Tells You About Social Skills & Mental Health in Sports
Let me be honest with you: whenever I heard the word mental health, for a long while I always thought “Yep, definitely talking about a crazy person, so probably not me.”
Fortunately for me, I never said that out loud to risk severe embarrassment! In the long run, I’ve come to realize that although your sanity is a part of your mental health, that’s not all to it. Your mental state is so much more because it is linked to every important aspect of your life, and has a significant impact on each part.
What no one tells you is that mental health is essentially the control center for your life.
Now you’re probably wondering “What on earth does this have to do with me? I’m an athlete, not an aspiring therapist”
Well, my young warriors, we’re getting there! You young athletes reading this blog right now are the future Lebron James, Tom Brady, Serena Williams, Cristiano Ronaldo, and many other athletes you guys look up to.
However, in order to get to the level that your heroes are already on, you have to have a basic understanding of just how important your mental health is. You need to know how it can impact your performance on the field or courts, specifically focusing on your interactions with others, on your team, or the opposing team.
Did you know that how you treat a fellow team member after he/she makes a winning shot, or even after he/she makes a mistake is all connected to your mental health? Do you celebrate with your team members or instead are too distracted with the thoughts about how that goal should’ve been yours? Do you yell at your teammate for their mistake or you encourage them to keep going? These behaviors are signs of either a good or poor mental health.
You must already know that there have been many studies that say your social skills are directly linked to mental state, (if you didn’t know, well now you know).
However, what do those studies say exactly? In summary, your social skills and your mental health work hand in hand. This means that, if you have a poor mental state you probably have poor social skills, and vice versa.
Keep in mind that a healthy mental state does not apply only to your sports life but to your daily life too! In this world, it is vital to develop the skills to work with people as friends and colleagues can help ease the workload.
So what do social skills mean? When I say social skills, I’m mainly talking about how well you work with people on your team, like the example I mentioned earlier. Basically, your sportsmanship and leadership. And before you start rolling your eyes and sighing, yes, I know you’ve heard this same talk before! Either from your coach or personal trainer, but it is important!!!
Some athletes could be amazing, talented, and incredibly skilled athletes, but if they cannot work with the people on their team and other people around them, there is going to be a serious problem. This boils it down to the state of your mental health. How good is it?
Pretty good? Let's test that! Below are four signs of poor mental health for athletes, test yourself to see if you go through these things.
Constant negative thinking
Decrease in concentration, interest, and motivation
So did you pass the test? If you did great! If not, don’t worry! Now that you know, you can start paying better attention to your mental health.
Quick storytime! There was once an outstanding soccer player, who could dribble past any defender and could score a goal right from the half line! This player was pretty impressive and the whole school loved them! However, this player was extremely toxic towards his own teammates! They never passed the ball and always complained whenever a teammate didn’t pass to them.
They made fun of their teammates' skills and always bragged about how much better he was than everyone else. This player was a terrible teammate!
Eventually, the team got fed up with this behavior and all of them threatened to quit the team, so this player realized he lacked vital social skills on the soccer field and strived to fix them. It was quite difficult, but in the end not only did this person’s skills as an individual improve, but the team as a whole greatly improved.
When you develop great social skills, you not only improve your mental health but the mental health of people around you.
Your mental health does affect your social skills on and off the courts, and to take care of your mental health, you need proper sleep (don’t joke with your eight hours!), you need proper nutrition (skipping breakfast is not an option!), and always talk to people (could be a coach, parent, or a trusted adult) whenever you feel down, and last, but certainly not least, continue playing your sport!
Physical activities are a great way to reduce one’s stress levels, increase your social skills, and improve your mental well-being in general!! It is a great way to clear your mind and focus on the game at hand, so keep pushing and working hard!
Well, that’s all for now my young warriors, till we meet again.
“Everyone is going through something that we can’t see. The thing is because we can’t see it, we don’t know who’s going through what and we don’t know when and we don’t always know why. Mental health is an invisible thing, but it touches all of us at some point or another. It’s part of life.”
Brodsky, Samantha. “Mental Health Doesn't Discriminate: 10 Athletes Who Have Talked About Their Mental Illness.” POPSUGAR Fitness, 2 June 2020, www.popsugar.com/fitness/professional-athletes-who-talk-about-mental-illness-47506021.
CL. Reardon, B. Hainline, et al. “Mental Health In Elite Athletes: Increased Awareness Requires An Early Intervention Framework to Respond to Athlete Needs.” Open, SpringerOpen, 1 Jan. 1970, sportsmedicine-open.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40798-019-0220-1#Sec1.
“The Role of Physical Activity and Sport in Mental Health.” The Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine, 21 May 2018, www.fsem.ac.uk/position_statement/the-role-of-physical-activity-and-sport-in-mental-health/.
“University Health Service.” Ten Things You Can Do for Your Mental Health | University Health Service, uhs.umich.edu/tenthings.
“What 7 Athletes Have Shared About Their Mental Health Journeys.” Sparlin Mental Health, 17 Jan. 2020, sparlinmentalhealth.com/athletes-and-mental-health/.
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