Mental Strength: Struggles of a Student Athlete

A student-athlete endures many different problems while they are executing their craft. Many people do not notice, but athletes struggle with mental health consistently. Many are good at showing their emotions, but some are experts at keeping their problems undercover. As an athlete myself, it is not easy to meet expectations while you are struggling with your real-world problems. We must find ways to overcome problems on and off the field, but there aren’t many known resources for athletes. 

My name is Juan Gutierrez, and I am a soccer player at the University of St. Thomas – Houston. The excitement of playing in college was one of the best feelings I had felt in a while. Coming back from an injury that summer and a wild start to the year with my decision to play at various semi-professional levels and then a university was a lot for me to handle, but an exciting time for me. I was happy and was finally relaxed, fit, and able to enjoy what I do while still being able to study at a prestigious school. I loved the team, the campus, my coaches, and the friends I had made – a perfect set up for a wonderful fall season at UST.

Preseason begins

I am already aware of the butt-kicking I will be receiving physically from the season. The first time you experience the college soccer season, you begin to realize how physically demanding those 12 weeks of soccer are. It may not be the longest time, but training almost every day and having 18 games in that period is not easy. You can have the confidence of someone who is a veteran, but as soon as that whistle blows the game catches up to you. Now you must show what you got under the pressure of your teammates, the fans, and the coaches. One mistake and it is all over for you. 

I had an average start to my season. Due to off-the-field issues, my coach pulled me from the starting line-up. The thrill of earning your spot back is amazing, but only for so long. I was impacting the game off the bench, but you are never really satisfied with the outcome you get out of it. Unfortunately, I never earned that spot back, but the team was performing well. The team ended up winning the conference tournament after an excellent second-place finish in the conference.

Earning my spot back

Before I had come to the University of St. Thomas, I had intentions of playing soccer at a higher level, but I was never fully convinced of my ability. Due to other off-the-field issues, I never left for that higher level of soccer. I had come to the university to prove something to myself. During the season, I experienced the death of one of my beloved grandmothers. I never fully mourned and would often let some of my anger and sadness out on the field. Frustration started affecting my play on the field and in practice. I remember wishing there was some sort of resources I could take advantage of within the school’s athletic department that could help me through this rough period.

No help would come during the season.

Courtesy: howzat

Communication is key

Luckily, through communication with my coach after the season, I received the help I needed to overcome my internal issues. As an athlete, mental health is one of the most important factors that you must conquer and keep stable to achieve your goals. I encourage all athletes struggling to not be afraid to find help and talk to someone. There are great resources online for sports psychology everywhere. You can also do some research and find yourself your school’s sports psychologist. If you take advantage of these resources, trust me you will elevate your game and your life.