Increased pressures in sports require more mental health advocacy ever than before.
Many reservations and misgivings underpin what mental health means in sports, especially athletes mental health. If athletes earn quite exorbitantly, then why should they be vocal about their problems? I mean, who gives a dime about their mental well-being as long as they are not physically impaired? Some even believe it is practically impossible for athletes to be successful without a synthetic combination of mental clarity and physical fitness. While this has been successfully proved to be a hoax as athletes reveal they have had to forcefully compete even in the midst of mental instability, it still came as a startling dispensation when Simone Biles said ‘her body and mind are not in sync’.
Similarly, when a journalist subtly quizzed Osaka about the duality of dimensions that comes with media in the modern sport, the consequence was a backlash that was attendant with Osaka’s emotional outpour. Modern sports and modern sports media place grave pressure on sportspeople, and Osaka’s plight is a reflection of this harsh reality; an inconsiderate disregard of athletes’ over-arching well-being at the expense of a boundless bandwidth of humongous pressure and expectation. Plainly put, to them, if you are an athlete, you should be able to deal with pressures, regardless of how persistently overwhelming. But in candid retrospect, it is merely a hardwired assumption that is grounded in the evolution of modern sports audiences from fans to helpless consumers: an unfolding reality that is completely independent of our machination but based on the vile of wider receptivity.
The truth is that in the past years, sports has morphed into a capitalistic cage, a helpless situation where the characters are not means to an end but are end themselves. Their overall well-being is insignificant as long as their level of content productivity is uncompromised. To be honest, it is a reflection of what the modern world entails: a steady progression of capitalism in a sort of ‘Marxist’ ladder in which humans are objects whose emotions are negligible in the cascading process of content production. Obviously, this has resulted in an unprecedented flow of income into sports. In recent times, athletes command staggering wages and meaty sponsorships. While it seems like adequate compensation for the haggles involved, it fails to put into recognition the dynamic complexity of the 21st century: an epoch attendant with an unparalleled level of public scrutiny and hate, fuelled by another agent in the capitalistic web, which is the social media.
In the just-concluded Olympics, Simone Biles, a serial Olympic winner declared withdrawal, citing reasons relating to her mental health, predicated on ensuing developments and protracted slug. As in the case of Naomi Osaka, the modern sports media attributed her mental worries to a trend of ‘woke mentality’ while also disingenuously changing the subject of conversation to a gender gaslight. Perhaps the greatest disservice to modern sport is the non-ingenuity of the ‘modern media. Mired in the web of capitalism, they can’t but help the savour of the public even at the death of Athletes’ mental well-being. It is the reason why Osaka and Biles are objects of inexplicable condescension. They are deemed inferiors for ‘significantly lacking’ in characterising features of ‘elite’ athletes; that is the ability to internalize problems and still achieve giant strides. However, they are at the mercy of a monumental hypothetical error; the fact that athletes, especially males, rarely speak of their mental health doesn’t invalidate the validity of those who grab the bull by the horn and the coincidence of recent mental health advocacy in the context of wokeism only shows the glamorizing aspect of the ideology – a culture of being unabashedly vocal about our flaws, hubris and the drive towards overcoming them. More importantly, flaws and hubris in this sense are not even self-inflicted or devised, they are rather a consequence manifested in the inability to cope with enormous expectation and pressure likely to be backed by a wide consensus of vile depravity.
To be honest, modern sport is based on principles that must be fulfilled, they occur independently in a process that is self-creating and self-developing and unfortunately, all participants are helplessly involved. The stark reality being the astronomical demands for contents should not begrudge the very essence of the sport which sets human primacy as its foremost doctrine. Even in the flurry presence of money are the abstract, indivisible parts that constitute the ‘Athlete’ these parts which include healthy mental health only achievable by the reorientation of modern sports audience offers a hint in the future of the game. Understandable that they are at the receiving ends of what they enjoy but where do we draw the line between an obsessively voluptuous demand for content and respecting athletes’ mental health sacrosanct?