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Aaron Busi: To Male Athletes, Embrace Your Emotions

Aaron Busi running

Originally published by Hope for Athletes

Men’s mental/emotional health is heavily stigmatized, especially in high school sports. I am a straight, cisgender, biracial teenage boy. I am passionate, ambitious, and strongly emotional: traits I’ve seen little in boys around me growing up. Now, I don’t say this with the intention of putting myself above others. Speaking about men’s emotional health makes me more vulnerable. Yet I advocate for it because I have come to terms with my emotions and strive to reject the standard of male athletes bottling feelings through being nonchalant and want to uplift other men around me. 

As an athlete, I embrace my sport with open arms, seeking to enjoy myself as much as possible while maximizing improvement. I have fallen in love with it because of what it’s done for me and the ability to improve to great heights. In the first week of my track career, during practice, I sat on the turf with other guys standing around me. I opened up about my recent breakup. They sympathized with me, and in that moment, I felt acknowledged and cared for. But for most men, this isn’t something that can easily be done. 

Society’s judgemental glare over every male discourages embracing emotion, talking about their feelings, and showing any type of care. They are afraid to cry, for they have a reputation to uphold: for their family, for their friends, and for their romantic interests. It can be hard for anyone to open up, especially when they’ve been hurt before. The only thing I can say is not to let this discourage you from embracing your emotions. 

Aaron Busi running

Therapy saved me during a turmoil when I needed the most help. At the time, I was only ever happy when I was at track practice. The school year had come to a close, and I reached out to my counselor to connect me with someone. By doing so, I was able to receive free therapy sessions through my high school. I was very nervous when going to these sessions. Over the course of two years, sometimes I felt like there wasn’t enough wrong with me. But the truth is, that does not matter at all. I invalidated my problems and issues, and you should never do that. Even today, I get nervous when confronting my deepest problems, but it never hurts me when I try with an unbiased opinion like my therapist. I would recommend therapy to everyone, even if you don’t think you need it. 

During these sessions, I would talk about problems I was facing in my day-to-day life, oftentimes talking about track. I would tell her how my season was going and the struggles I was facing, a prominent one being immense loneliness and isolation. My therapist drew things out of me and showed them to me—things I was blind to see. I became a better athlete the more I faced and acknowledged my emotions. 

Aaron Busi wearing two medals around his neck

In a recent occurrence during track practice, I had once again opened up about a breakup, someone I had been with drastically longer. Things were mentioned that sunk deep over the following days and ended with my confrontation filled with frustration and anger. After a regular session with my therapist, she pieced things together. I had a disproportionate reaction and was not going to receive the closure I was seeking. My emotions had tipped over the edge because of the immense hardships and struggles in my life at the time. A combination of it all resulted in projecting my anger. That, and sending a message to those around me that I’m human. This did get in the way of my athletics, but I rekindled, questioned, and understood my emotions to grow from this situation for the better. 

These mental battles interfere with athletic performance no matter what. I urge you not to dismiss them with the thought of them being unimportant. I hope you know you don’t need to act nonchalant or toxic. I don’t want you to feel like you’re doing too much, something I’ve been told and insecure about for years. You need to be vulnerable to allow for growth.

Aaron Busi and team group photo


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