As a student-athlete, you feel as if there is an infinite amount of pressure weighing on you as you try to juggle every little thing with perfection. I was, and never have been, a confident person. In fact, every single one of my high school, travel, and college coaches would tell me, “Maddy, work on your confidence.”
While I was struggling to improve my confidence, I would train and practice harder than ever on and off the field. Though, sometimes, no matter how much harder you outwork your teammate, your don't get the chance you were hoping for. So, I would just keep hitting restart, keep training, and keep trying to build up my confidence. Keep giving 110%. Keep going no matter what the cost. Doing this constantly, I slowly tore down what little confidence I had left. I began to dread going to practices because I was terrified to mess up a drill or miss a simple goal opportunity. When it was time for a game, I never knew if I was going to play the full 90 minutes or get benched out of the blue. My confidence was stripped away and I could barely tell if my teammates or coaches had any left for me.
This past year, I realized I had lost my love for the one and only sport I’ve ever played in my entire life. I let myself be defined by my playing time, my performance at practices, and in games. I became consumed by my depression once again. I felt as if none of my teammates, close friends, family, and especially coaches would understand what I was going through.
As of now, slowly but surely, I have regained some of my love and passion for playing the game of soccer. After lots of tears, heartache, and just struggling to be the person I once was, I finally sought out help. It is a scary thing to be vulnerable, but there are people out there who want to listen and help you overcome your mental health struggles. It has been one of the hardest things God has challenged me with, but I would not wish this any other way. For this, and all my past mental health challenges, have made me into the player and athlete I am today.
Universities, colleges, the NCAA, and we as a society must end this stigma. Mental health is just as important as an athlete's physical health. You are far more than your playing time. You are far more than your injury. You are far more than a student. You are far more than an athlete. Your sport must not define you!