For so many people the identity, expectations, and lifestyle associated with being an “athlete” is a major part of who they are and know themselves to be in the world. The pursuit of athletic success leaves it’s mark on every competitor and that impact can be extremely complex and often problematic. Each athlete, no matter their skill level or accomplishments, eventually has to deal with the difficult realities of failure, disappointment, injury, and life after sport. The very nature of sport, however, often makes addressing the impact of these realities more difficult and daunting than it would for many other people. This often leaves athletes silently suffering with immensely difficult emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.
Over the years I’ve seen the pain of this reality in various contexts both personally and professionally. It impacted me so deeply that I wanted to develop a place for athletes to understand and address the complexity of these experiences and the identity that developed in response to it. As a clinician I’ve spent the past decade coming to understand the heart of so many athletes’ issues and worked specifically to address the symptoms that manifest out of this context (depression, anxiety, substance + behavioral addictions, eating disorders, bodily trauma etc…). What emerged out of this work was a desire to heal both the symptoms of each athletes suffering while simultaneously seeing beyond those symptoms to the deeper root causes keeping them stuck. I didn’t want athletes to just be “fixed”, I wanted them to be transformed.
Counseling is hard work. It takes immense courage and emotional vulnerability to ask for help and move towards healing. Athletes are no strangers to hard work and courage, and yet few give themselves the opportunity to go talk about what is happening in their lives off the playing field. So many have been told repeatedly to hide their emotions, hate weakness and vulnerability, and figure out problems on their own. This concoction of judgment and shame has kept so many men and women in hiding, suffering, and loneliness. But for what? For whom? What is gained by all this struggle in the end? There is no trophy for “toughing it out”.
My hope that if something in these words resonates that there would be nothing that would keep you from at least having a conversation. There is no issue too big or too small to be explored, cared for, and understood.