Men’s mental health in sports – The Preface
By: Matt Lood
Fall sports season is officially over at IU South Bend, and with winter sports getting into full swing, it is important to remember that our athletes are people too. The month of November is Men’s Health Awareness Month, which is a reminder to prioritize both physical and mental health. It’s also important for men to realize how their physical health and mental health may be intertwined.
The stigma surrounding mental health in sports is not something that should be taken lightly. Stereotypes about what an athlete should and should not be lead to athletes refusing help, or in some cases, prevents them from even acknowledging the problem. In men’s sports, athletes are often spoken down upon or considered weak for talking about vulnerabilities and struggles, whether due to the masculine nature of their sports or the competitiveness associated with them.
A survey by the National Collegiate Athletic Association found that less than half of student athletes – men and women – strongly agreed with the statement that they would feel comfortable seeking support from a mental health professional on campus, with only 46 percent of men strongly agreeing.
The stresses that athletes face when struggling with their mental health can lead to both poor performance on the field and in the classroom. Senior baseball player Jackson Krueger shared his own experience with mental health, recalling a 2021 game in Kokomo.
“Going into the game I had been dealing with personal stuff. When my name was finally called to go in and pitch, I didn’t perform to the best of my abilities,” he said. “Looking back on it, I think a lot of it can be attributed to poor mental health. Since that outing, I’ve really made it a focus to try and help my teammates not have to be in that situation by reaching out to them and letting them know that I am here to help however I can.”
Mental health problems can also cause physical symptoms like a racing heart rate, shaking hands, trouble breathing, slow movements and fatigue, and can affect appetite and sleep – all of which can be disturbing and significantly affect an athlete’s performance in their sport and life.
“Mental health in sports is something that needs to be at the forefront of conversation,” Krueger said. “If it’s not addressed in the near future, it’s only going to become more and more common.”
All IU campuses have access to the TimelyCare app through OneIU and through links on Canvas. TimelyCare is a 24/7 virtual care site that allows you to connect in real time with another human being to speak about what’s going on in life. This is a fantastic tool for athletes.
As many are aware, the schedule of a student athlete can be quite hectic. From running from practices to class, and everything in between, the stress of student athletes is not something that can be pushed under the rug. IU South Bend puts an emphasis on its athletes to take care of themselves both on and off the field.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health, IU South Bend’s Student Counseling Center can be reached at +1(574)-520-4125.