How do Sports Affect Mental Health?

Anna Hoppenrath, Staff Reporter

It is not uncommon for highschool students to struggle with mental health. For student athletes, certain aspects of sports can negatively amplify mental health, but also improve it while having to deal with responsibilities and meet expectations at school and in your home life. I talked to athletes around the school and asked them how playing sports has affected their mental health.

Senior Peyton Ellis, who is one of the girls water polo team captains, has experienced the negativity that comes with playing sports. ”When it comes to playing games, it [increases my anxiety] and it makes me feel like there is a lot of pressure on me,” said Ellis. Ellis also touches on the topic of the community and energy that the team brings during practices or games that can affect how Ellis feels on a daily basis (whether that be negative or positive) regarding mental health. ”The way the team works together and the way they act around each other definitely has an effect on how everyone does mentally,¨ said Ellis. 

Ellis recognizes the positive attributes of playing sports as well. “I have met some of my closest friends playing sports and having a support group within that which builds me up and makes me feel good mentally. 

Senior Lindsey Wilson has been on the Mountainside womens varsity basketball team since her freshman year. “Basketball positively affects my mental health because I am able to be around my friends that have the same goals as me and the same level of understanding of the sport,” said Wilson. “When a team has freedom to mess around at practices and have fun while also getting work done to be successful while still having a fun senior year,” said Wilson. 

On the opposite end, the negative aspects of playing a sport involves the pressure to do well and getting frustrated when you don’t perform up to your own standards.  “Late practices make me crazy tired, and I procrastinate [on] homework a lot more which stresses me out along with getting frustrated,” said Wilson. 

Junior Anton Kornikov is one of the boys water polo team captains. ”I’ve been able to see my friends more and hangout while playing the sport that I love to play with them,” said Kornikov. Not having a season last year because of covid and dealing with the time slots of practice that are available can be difficult. The water polo team has to practice at Beaverton Highschool from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Also, having games at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. can cause the students playing to not get to sleep at a reasonable time.  Not having sleep can negatively affect an individual’s mental health. The amount of effort you put into things may not be as high as well as affecting your mood which can affect other parts of life other than playing sports. 

Club swimmer, sophomore Ally Webster has made close friends and has formed a good community around her that she considers family. “It has made me feel included and wanted in many ways,” said Webster. “Being a part of a team boosts one’s mental health. To have a group of people that want them. Playing sports can help a person escape from the things they are facing in their personal lives. It has helped me a lot with being able to escape from things going on in my life and focus on this one goal, with people that I am close with…” 

Viewing yourself one way and thinking about how one misstep could mess the whole process up is a big weight to carry on one’s shoulders. A weight that many student athletes have to constantly handle.  ”…Club swimming has also messed my head up in many ways,” said Webster.

These certain individuals all talk about the community that is created within a team and the people you are surrounded by on a daily basis have a severe impact on your mood and the way you approach situations.  If each person has a common goal in mind and wants to have a positive outlook on the task at hand it makes it fun and a positive experience for everyone involved. At the same time, looking at the negative aspects of sports were similar too. More times than not, each individual said that the pressure of having to be good enough can cause anxiety and other mental health issues. 

The battle against your own mind with student athletes having to juggle school, jobs, while also practicing and striving to win. Dealing with the pressures that come from all the expectations can be difficult . “Focus on the positive more than the negative. You are able to turn the negatives into positives if you choose to look at it through a positive lense.” said Wilson.