San Diego teens develop sports psychology to prevent athlete burnout

The aim of the new initiative is to normalize discussions of mental health in athletics.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Teens often struggle with mental health issues.jpg
Teens often struggle with mental health issues.

SolStock/iStock 

In March of 2022, Sapien Labs, a Washington D.C.-based non-profit that studies how the technologies and environments of rapidly-evolving modernity changes the brain, released its second annual Mental State of the World report, the widest-reaching and most extensive study of its kind in existence. The research found that globally, young people are seeing a very dramatic decline in mental well-being.

Protecting the mental health of student-athletes

Now two teens from San Diego are planning to do something about it, according to a statement by The Almanac published on Saturday. More specifically, they have started an initiative to protect the mental health of student-athletes.

Nikhil Berry, a swimmer at Menlo School in Atherton, and Sydney Randolph, a volleyball player at San Dieguito Academy in San Diego, know firsthand how difficult it can be to maintain a positive mental outlook.

"There are high school athletes who are often training much longer than the NCAA requirement because there is (no requirement) for high school athletes," Berry said. "And at the same time, most high schools are not even equipped to handle the regular mental health challenges of their students, let alone the athletic mental health challenges."

GOAT Mentality (greatest of all time) is a program that will provide coping mechanisms for student-athletes and those who support them. The program consists of a series of athlete interviews and curriculum videos with sports psychologists. The aim of the new initiative is to normalize discussions of mental health in athletics.

San Diego teens develop sports psychology to prevent athlete burnout
Athletes can find themselves stressed and depleted.

"(I'm) trying to create a more positive environment in my team itself, and providing some, like tips here and there from GOAT mentality that I've learned about in my ... research with GOAT, I've kind of been able to incorporate that into a little bit of my team setting," Randolph said. "And I've noticed that that has been some positive and healthy changes, both in the team dynamic and the team's mental health and kind of the way that we run a little bit."

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Promoting physical activity

The program also aims to promote physical activity as a resource for dealing with mental health issues.

"For a lot of athletes, especially (in) high school, athletic sports is our escape ... we're so lucky that we go to school all day, and a lot of people have to go back to ... doing something academic, but we get to work on our brains all day and then in the afternoon, we get to work out our bodies and kind of bond through with each other through that way," Berry said.

Now, the students hope the new program will create a bond between athletes and offer them a resource they can turn to when stress gets too overwhelming.

"We really prioritize creating a community of athletes," Berry said. "So it's not just providing resources, but feeling the most important thing is feeling like you're not alone."

GOAT Mentality hopes to further partner with CCS (Central Coast Section, one of 10 regions in the California Interscholastic Federation for student athletics), as well as USA teams such as Gymnastics, Swimming, and Water Polo.

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