In my first three years playing college soccer I have been forced to be sidelined due to injuries. This has been ongoing for the past five years. This started my junior year of high school when I first tore my right ACL. It wasn't until then that I realized just how much I prioritized my sport. Soccer was all I had known for 11 years of my life and for it to be suddenly taken away from me felt like a death. I had never thought I'd find myself struggling with depression but this is where it brought me.
I was finally cleared a year and a half later and went into my freshman year of college hoping for everything to go perfectly. Six games in I partially tore my other ACL. I was told to redshirt and watched the rest of the season from the sidelines heartbroken. COVID hit and we didn't get another season until 2020. I had worked so hard over that break in between summer and school and tore my meniscus. Another surgery. Another two months of recovery. I worked my hardest to return in the Spring of 2021 and fully tore my left ACL within the first ten minutes of the first game of the season. I knew it right away and was more upset about the fact that I would have to go through recovery again knowing I would fall back into a depression. Not only did this injury bring me depression, but it also brought me anxiety worse than I had ever had before. The constant worry that I would never be back to where I was, the constant fear that I would never get a chance to play again; The worry that without soccer, I was not able to excel at anything. Being sidelined made me recognize how much soccer played a part in my mental health. I gave it the chance to dictate my happiness. I am here to say that your sport does not define the person that you are.
My heart has felt extra heavy with everything that has been going on in college athletics regarding mental health. The continuous deaths of student-athletes around the country have shown that there is so much work to be done. This is not something that should be normalized, not something that we should be “getting used to” and it should not have to take numerous deaths for us to begin a conversation. College athletics is PRESSURE. The idea that you will never be good enough, the idea that there isn't enough time in a day to practice do schoolwork, or go to physical therapy, the injuries, the constant worries about doing well not only on the field/track/court but also in the classroom, the pressure period. No matter what school, no matter what division, no matter what sport, we are all HUMAN. Incredible, hardworking, talented humans.
The mental health crisis going on right now is one that should never be overlooked. These are friends, students, family members, & teammates that are being taken from us due to mental health struggles. You are not alone, you are braver than you believe. This change must start with us. Open the conversation up to your peers and coaches. It is our duty to advocate for those who no longer can. Your mental health matters and it is not a weakness, but rather a strength to be able to identify and talk about it. Be the person to start the conversation, be the person to smile at someone today and check-in, be the person to make a difference.