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Relationship between Sports, Social Development and Mental Breakdown in Athletes

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A Breaking Point

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Many young athletes have probably heard this phrase from their coach, or parent at one point in time while participating in a youth sport. Encouraged by coaches and parents with many visions of scholarships and glory. As more professional athletes are becoming younger, especially in the NHL and NBA, there is a lot of pressure to grab a giant piece of professional pie to go to the “BIG LEAGUES.” This type of behavior from parents and coaches is pushing young athletes of breaking down physically, and mentally. Coaches want to win, while parents demand results from their children. It’s a lot to juggle in a young athlete’s mind to try and succeed and live up to, sometimes, unrealistic expectations. Skye states that coaches and parents agree the impact and participation in youth sports for the kids are social, psychological, and physical development (Skye,47). Youth sports seem to stray from its core mission of promoting and providing a healthy lifestyle, and character-building for children.

Coaches and parents push for the best participation and performance with overtraining. It’s causing injuries that sometimes compromise a child’s future. Research and statistics have shown that 3.5 million young athletes from 15 years old and younger, are having to undergo and be treated for sports injuries (“Sports Injury”). It’s damaging growth plates and causing stress fractures due to the use of overtraining. Over 775,000 young athletes that are 14 years of age and younger are treated in emergency rooms each year due to overexertion during sports activities ( “Sports Injury”). That makes an average of almost 8,000 emergency visits each day (Newton, pg.1) The national alliance of youth sports committee found on average that 63,000 youth athletes suffer from a brain injury each year, and also noted that youth athletes suffer more injuries than college athletes (Newton, pg.1). On average 63,000 young people suffer brain injuries during sporting events each year, and in 2010, 48 youths died while participating in sporting events, about half of them as the result of a brain injury. high school athletes suffer injuries at a rate twice that of college-level athletes(Newton, pg.1). The article written by Stanford Children’s Health, has a breakdown of statistics for injury per sport from the 2009 consumer safety commission (“Sports Injury”). More than 170,000 young athletes were treated for injury in Basketball, 110,000 for baseball, 215,000 for football, and 88,000 for soccer(“Sports Injury”). A lot of coaches and parents are telling their kids to play through the pain and keep pushing even when feeling hurt. I understand that coaches and parents want their kids to excel and succeed, but telling a young athlete to push through the pain is a bad idea. If ignored it will get worse that would eventually lead to permanent damage. Young individuals’ bodies are still growing and developing, and this makes a young athlete’s body more prone to injury (Newton, pg.1). It’s interesting to see how young athletes suffer more injuries than college level. This comes from the young athlete pushing themselves beyond their limit to make it to college. Some sports as the only opportunity to get to college on a sports scholarship, and put sports above anything else.

These statistics are a crucial key element to show how serious injuries occur in youth sports. It gives an idea for a call to action to try and develop plans to mitigate this problem. This brings good thoughts to the physical aspect of what overtraining can do to a young child. Their bodies are still growing and developing, pushing athletes beyond their limits can lead to permanent damage. This seems as a form of immoral values coming from the parents and coaches. I understand that accidents due happen. The statistics shown is a ridiculous number for injuries in youth sports and it can be mitigated through a creation of board members that is nationwide to create boundaries in all areas to reduce injury. A lot of these physical issues can be reduced by coaches and parents understanding the damage it’s causing. They can change the training programs and allow a minimum of two days rest for the body to fully recover. Shorten the length of the training schedule and reduce some of the intensity exercises. Ease a young athlete into a sport, instead of them tackling it head-on. Instead of sending an athlete to an all-summer sports camp, try a one-three week camp instead. Know your athletes and how they can adapt to the training to reduce the possibility of injuries. This should be established through the athletic committee/department to undergo coach training courses that are mandatory if an individual wants to coach a sport. This should be a certification course in physical condition/training, understanding of the certain sport, and the causes and possibilities of overtraining. Have members of the committee periodically come out and check and assess the practices that are going on.

Social development is a key component for an athlete to feel burnout. Skye states that a sociologist by the name, of Jay Wakley, suggested that athletes feel they live a restricted life that is centered on a particular sport, or multiple sports (Skye,49). This was perceived as having control over their choice or involvement in a sport of their choosing, which the individual would lose interest in (Skye,49). Some signs and symptoms occur during a burnout that happens in stages. Irritability, change in eating habits. These athletes will start to feel distant in their own sport that can develop emotional strains such as helplessness, and depression (Skye,50). The role that plays into a burnout comes from the pressure of parents and coaches. Skye states that a study was done for high school athletics and that 90% of athletes felt parental and coach influence in a negative manner (Skye,51). This starts damaging the social development of an athlete and this is what leads to a mental breakdown.

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Pushing too hard can lead to a mental breakdown. The young athlete would eventually lose interest in the activity, thus making them want to quit. It can lead to large amounts of stress from all the pressure put on them that could eventually lead to severe anxiety issues, according to Dr. Harold S. Kuplewicz, Child Psychiatrist president of the Child Mind Institute (Martinelli, para.4). A study by Kuplewicz, shows that when an athlete starts to have a mental breakdown, being told their not “good enough”, they can do better, could lead to possible drug use such as anabolic steroids. The psychological concerns related to this are the fear of not performing well, being accepted among their peers, body image, and trying to live up to unrealistic expectations of themselves (Skye,270). This stems from the social fixation of peer pressure not just from parents, but from peers as well. The image of an athlete that society perceives is that a high school athlete is more likely to engage in alcohol and risk-taking. The mentality of communities that, boys will be boys falls from a hard reality of not being taught certain moral values. These kids feel like they have to try and successfully manage an athletic identity. The male/female adolescent age during puberty brings a lot of pressure, especially when involved in youth sports (Skye,272). As stated before, parental and coach pressure can lead to it, but society has trained us to strive to be the best, go for the gold, be number one at all costs. This causes issues among the young teenagers that are engaged in sports today. Studies have shown that teenagers were most likely to misuse painkillers, steroids, and alcohol that were engaged in some high school sports activity (Skye,273). I have had a similar experience with a mental breakdown and not feeling that I was good enough from pressure from my parents, peers, and myself. . My parents had me playing multiple sports at the same time. I couldn’t stay focused. It just wasn’t fun anymore, it affected me because I started to hate the sports that I loved. I felt that I couldn’t compete anymore and I wasn’t good enough. This led to the fixation of wanting to try and use performance-enhancing drugs.

According to Bruce Oglivie, Author of Psychological Implications of Participation in Sports (Oglivie, pg.52), some barriers to breaking mental stress is simple, encouragement, and support. A supportive role in an athlete’s life will help the athlete have control of its own activity and be responsible for their own outcome. This will emulate a sense of freedom for the youth who are participating. Give them the feeling to express enjoyment. That will help them meet social and emotional needs, and develop a healthy mental outcome (Oglivie, pg.52). Encourage your athletes to seek sports, but let them find one that sparks their own interests in what they like. Support their decisions, it will be more gratifying to the child, and build a more mental positive outlook to excel and succeed. Focus on their achievements and progress they have made rather than their faults. Have the athletes set small realistic goals for themselves that they can accomplish? It will help shape their attitudes and motivate them to stay committed and focused. Athletes should feel supported and empowered, not overworked like a racehorse. Oglivie gives great guidance when it comes to a supporting role and encouraging young athletes to challenge themselves and giving the freedom to the child to set personal goals. This gives the child a sense of freedom to enjoy what their doing, rather than being bombarded with pressure from a parent, or a coach that can lead to a child-hating the sport they are playing. Emotional freedom is a great aspect for a healthy supportive role. Knowing a child’s interests, strengths, and weaknesses when having a child try out extracurricular activities is a good idea to analyze. When children feel pressured, they tend to push back due to real limitations, such as anxiety, that can lead to barriers(Martinelli, para.7) Sticking with new things while being supportive of a child is a great idea for mental development. Praising success and also teaching a child how to cope with failure. Their must be a balance for the child between learning, growing, and developing success and failure. Easing a child into a sport based on their interest is a healthy way of pushing a child to pursue extracurricular activities(Martinelli, par.8)

When I was a child I always felt that I had to impress my parents, because my parents had high expectations when it came to sports. I felt that I had no freedom to choose how I wanted to succeed in a particular sport. I never got a chance to learn, and develop my own strategies. Everything seemed so one-sided that I was being forced or told what to do non-stop, and it made me hate the sport that I used to love.

I’d be the last person to discourage a child from playing a sport and pursuing it. Smart training and a strong mental outlook is a path to good physical and mental health. Coaches and parents need to tell their kids that nobody is perfect. Everybody makes mistakes, especially while learning new skills. Motivation instills commitment which is most rewarding to a young athlete. If overbearing parents and coaches could remove the manipulative instincts of extrinsic motivation, an athlete could find more satisfaction that’s more rewarding than status and prestige (Brower, pg.57). This is a good point that Brower puts into perspective on manipulative extrinsic. Parents today seem like they want more of a trophy child, rather than the care and welfare of that child in sports. Constant negative feedback can be a major loss in self-confidence and motivation which disorients the child to think that there never good enough. Having the inability to teach their children that perfection is not always the best thing to pursue. Learning to cope with failure and using it as a learning tool is a better outcome for a child to learn. This will develop a growth mindset, which is a key element to learn and grow from mistakes that have been made. This will help a child be able to become an effective problem solver. Kids that tend to feel the pressure of coaches and parents are always on their toes and living in constant fear of not living up to the expectations that is wanted from them. This develops a fixed mindset, meaning when the child fails a task, they break down and don’t know how to cope, learn, and grow from it. It keeps them in a constant state of fear. Parents and coaches need to understand that kids imperfect and it’s ok to feel vulnerable. That’s what makes room for growth, and establishes connection between the parent and the child. Living in fear is living in failure, living in faith is living in victory. Be proud of them for doing their best. Having a mentality of striving for the best, and trying to be perfect at athletics, realistically can set someone up for huge failure that leads to a high risk of disappointment. There are a number of solutions that can counter a lot of these problems that are in the text. The majority of them start right with the parents and coaches, and how they are the key factor in overall youth sport development. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to be a successful athlete.

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Relationship between Sports, Social Development and Mental Breakdown in Athletes. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/relationship-between-sports-social-development-and-mental-breakdown-in-athletes/
“Relationship between Sports, Social Development and Mental Breakdown in Athletes.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/relationship-between-sports-social-development-and-mental-breakdown-in-athletes/
Relationship between Sports, Social Development and Mental Breakdown in Athletes. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/relationship-between-sports-social-development-and-mental-breakdown-in-athletes/> [Accessed 29 Nov. 2022].
Relationship between Sports, Social Development and Mental Breakdown in Athletes [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2022 Nov 29]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/relationship-between-sports-social-development-and-mental-breakdown-in-athletes/
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