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Resource Recommendation: The Price She Pays

The Price She Pays book cover

In a soon-to-be published book, two licensed therapists who have dedicated their careers to advocating for athletes’ mental healthcare reveal the hidden truth about how damaging competitive sports can be on the well-being of women, while at the same time providing a hopeful roadmap for systemic change. 


Available June 18, THE PRICE SHE PAYS: Confronting the Hidden Mental Health Crisis in Women's Sports—from the Schoolyard to the Stadium (Little, Brown Spark, $30) provides first-hand accounts from women who have competed at every level, from pro and D1 to local, and in sports including track & field, gymnastics, soccer, cross-country skiing, ice hockey, swimming, bicycle racing, and more. 


The authors, Katie Steele and Dr. Tiffany Brown, along with journalist Erin Strout, examine the many stressors that women face as a result of sport, including anxiety, depression, abuse, inequities, body image concerns, eating disorders, family planning challenges, suicide ideation, and much more. Katie, a former D1 runner, has a particularly relevant story – having experienced body shaming, eating disorders, depression, and mistreatment by some coaches and professionals she trusted (including the disgraced Dr. Alberto Salazar) – yet we learn in The Price She Pays that Katie’s experience is merely representative of many women athletes. 


Along with revealing what women athletes must cope with, The Price She Pays dives deep into a possible way forward, teaching readers that it is possible to set up female athletes to succeed from the start. Written for parents, coaches, and athletes, the book provides the expert knowledge needed to recognize the signs of mental health issues and how to provide the support athletes need to thrive. Readers will be able to identify the responsibilities of parents, how to communicate effectively with an athlete, how to create healthy coach-athlete relationships, how to recognize potential mental health symptoms, as well as how to intervene on an athlete’s behalf when needed. 


According to statistics, this book will serve as an invaluable resource. An NCAA Student-Athlete Well-Being study released in 2022 found women in sports experienced disproportionately higher rates of anxiety, mental exhaustion and sadness compared to men. According to another study published by the National Institute of Health, female athletes face distinct stressors when compared with male athletes, including violence, abuse, body image concerns, sport inequities, disordered eating, family planning challenges, hormonal challenges, mental distress, and more. And researchers estimate that up to 45 percent of female athletes experience disordered eating. 


“Mental health is a hidden crisis within women’s sports,” said Katie Steele. “Many women leave sport and discover they have a lifelong impact from abusive treatment they received while they were athletes. In no other human dynamic would the treatment endured by athletes be acceptable. Yet, in athletic systems it’s called ‘tough coaching.’ The sporting organizations overseeing women’s sports need to create systems of accountability to ensure coaches are being ethical, as well as change their model to focus on providing the support women need.”


“We have heard from many athletes that they don’t have space to discuss their mental health within their programs, that programs don’t have the budgets to hire mental health providers, and that there is often a huge disconnect with coaches’ understanding of mental health,” said Dr. Tiffany Brown. “We want to give women a healthy, supportive place where they are empowered to compete to the best of their abilities, under coaches and systems that foster their success. To accomplish this, athletic systems must acknowledge their power and make space for mental health needs and challenges.” 


The Price She Pays is the ultimate playbook in helping arm parents, coaches, and athletes understand with the knowledge they need to recognize the signs of mental health issues and how to provide the support athletes need to thrive, no matter what level they compete at. 


Katie Steele is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and co-founder of Thrive Mental Health, an outpatient mental health clinic in Bend, Oregon. She is also the co-founder of Athletes Mental Health Foundation, a nonprofit organization launched in 2023. Competing in track and cross country at the University of Oregon and Florida State University, Katie placed second team all PAC-10 as a redshirt freshman. Through her experiences as an NCAA Division-I athlete, Katie has developed a mission to help integrate mental healthcare into athletics. 


Dr. Tiffany Brown is a faculty member at the University of Oregon in the Couples and Family Therapy graduate program and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She is also the co-founder of The Athletes Mental Health Foundation, a nonprofit organization launched in 2023. Dr. Brown received her doctoral degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Texas Tech University. Clinically, Dr. Brown works with people dealing with self-harm, trauma, grief, and issues of substance use and recovery. For many years, Dr. Brown has served as a mentor in the University of Oregon’s Mentor Program for athletes, served as a consultant and teacher to the University of Oregon’s athletics program regarding mental health, and has worked closely with many student-athletes. 


Erin Strout is a journalist who writes about health fitness, and Olympic sports with a focus on the issues that women face. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, ESPN, Self, Women’s Health, Outside, Triathlete, and more. She also served as a senior writer at Women’s Running, contributing editor at Runner’s World, and senior editor at Running Times. Erin co-authored the book Race Everything: How to Conquer Any Race at Any Distance in Any Environment and Have Fun Doing It, with Bart Yasso. Since 2013, Erin has covered the top levels of track and field and distance running, from the World Marathon Majors to the Rio and Tokyo Olympics. 


The Price She Pays will be available wherever books are sold, including Amazon.com.


THO COO Leeann Passaro's review of The Price She Pays

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