A DE(RS)teriorating Mental Health


Maroon Staff

Scarsdale Varsity Tennis plays Edgemont on Scarsdale Middle School courts.

James Liu

Playing a sport is a healthy and fun activity for many people. It is a good way to stay fit while socializing with others. About 57% of all high schoolers participate in at least one sports team for their school (EducationWeek). While there are many proven benefits to participating in sports teams, there are also many hidden pitfalls that may trip up unsuspecting high schoolers. 

It is not uncommon to think that playing a sport reduces stress and anxiety, but in reality, athletes are especially vulnerable to mental health issues. Playing competitively, regardless of the sport, brings stress and pressure to the athlete. Many times, the athlete has to face both internal and external pressures. The internal pressure comes from the intrinsic motivation of the athlete wanting to succeed. The drive to win as well as the fear of losing can sometimes overwhelm even the most experienced player. External pressure, on the other hand, is often the one that players struggle to cope with. Family members, friends, or even strangers commenting and judging their game can cause anxiety, leading to a drop in performance. External pressures are often sources of stress and can serve as the roots of something much more serious, such as depression. 

Oftentimes, there is more to it than what meets the eye. Athletes are glorious and lively on the court, but they are human too. Even the most successful athletes suffer from mental health issues. Naomi Osaka, a star tennis player who has won numerous Grand Slams, dropped out of the French Open due to issues related to depression. Furthermore, Michael Phelps, an incredibly successful Olympian with 28 medals, has admitted to using drugs to self-medicate and contemplating suicide. Mental health issues exist at the professional level, but they are also surprisingly common in high school sports.

Of course, high school teams are nowhere near the level of competition for professional athletes. In spite of that, mental health problems are still very prevalent among high school athletes. Nearly one-in-five student-athletes feel pressured to be involved in extracurricular activities and to be good at sports (Pew Research Center). Sometimes these pressure go away without inflicting anything larger, but more often than not, they can become the start of a series of mental health issues. 

With the Spring sports season starting in Scarsdale High School, it’s more urgent than ever for us to address these issues. Luckily, there have been more and more resources becoming available to us. It is always a good idea to have a chat with a trusted adult; the school has counseling therapists for anyone who wants to talk about these issues. It is also important to prioritize mental recovery along with physical recovery. Every athlete should have their voices heard and should feel unrestrained when they feel the need to ask for support. So whether you are running spring track, playing on the tennis team, baseball team, or any spring sport at all, remember to take a break and care for yourself.