Mind Games: Mental Health within Athletics.

Issue # 
June 7, 2021

Being an athlete comes with a lot of demands. Physical demands, mental demands, performance demands and a relentless pursuit of excellence. When it’s game time, stakes are high and an athlete needs to be ON - with thousands of spectators and fans watching. Sound stressful? It is.  

It’s no surprise that athletes are becoming vocal about their mental health, and honestly, it’s about time this important discussion is being brought to the table.  

Aly Raisman, Kevin Love and most recently Naomi Osaka have been in the news speaking out about their mental health -- sparking a global mental health debate - and highlighting just how controversial and critical this conversation is.

Feeling the pressure and the need to perform is something we can all relate to. When we are not in the right mental space, performing becomes incredibly difficult. But performing takes a lot of “off the field” preparation. This is something Auburn Head Coach and two-time Olympic gold medal winner, Robb Taylor, knows a lot about. Not only does he coach high-performing, Olympic-bound athletes, they’re also college students with a rigorous school schedule. Equally as impressive as Coach Robb’s Olympic achievements is his thoughtful approach to his student athletes’ mental health and the stressors that accompany a demanding lifestyle. “Student athletes have a tremendous amount on their plates. Between schoolwork as a college student and the pressure of performing as an athlete at the collegiate level, stress levels can run high. That’s why we are thoughtful in finding ways to support our student-athletes and staff with helpful solutions.”

Spiritune has had the privilege of working with Coach Robb and his team as they work to get into top physical and mental shape leading up to the Tokyo 2021 Summer Olympic Games. Their approach has been holistic and thoughtful. “We have one of the best mindfulness-based performance and health optimization specialists on staff in Dr. Ford Dyke. We have offered different meditation programs to our team and recently partnered with Spiritune to use a music-based approach to help our team perform better and recover quicker. As a coach at both Auburn University and the US Men’s Paralympic Basketball Team, I understand how mental strength can give you an advantage on the court. Strengthening your mental health is one of the hard parts of training. Having resources like Spiritune allows us to stay ahead of the game and keep our student-athletes competing at a high level.”

While performance athletics hasn’t exactly been the most open place to talk about emotions or mental health historically, Coach Robb Taylor and Dr. Ford Dyke have been dedicated to emotional check-ins with the team and prioritized getting more in tune with emotions. One of the Auburn student-athletes said, “ Personally, I have never utilized a music-based app designed to transition me from one emotional state to another, and yet, I am enjoying every minute of the experience!"

The mental health impact of the last year has been tough on everyone. Coach Robb closes by saying, “If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is the importance of mental health for all. Doing what we can to provide that to our team is of the utmost importance.”

At Spiritune, we devote our work to helping organizations, individuals and athletes achieve their emotional goals to prepare them to perform -- whether on or off the sports field. Spiritune is excited to partner with Auburn Athletics to provide emotional, recovery and sleep support to the student athlete team and staff as they prepare to perform at the 2021 Olympic games in Tokyo. However, we also recognize the need and desire for everyone to perform in everyday life. Our great hope is that with more athletes, people and organizations becoming more vocal about their mental health, there will be more and more discussions happening at a global level to uncover supportive approaches and solutions to help all humans thrive and flourish, whether you’re on the field, the court, the office or at home.

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