I had always believed that if my children played competitive sports, then the endorphins would kick in and they would generally be happy and protected from feelings of depression. Most parents believe this.
Boy was I wrong!
My youngest son played on two ice hockey teams at college, went to the gym on a regular basis, played some intramural sports, and still took his own life. My eight-year-old grandson lost in a recent swim meet and cried because felt that he let his coach, and perhaps his family, down.
Michael Phelps, arguably the greatest swimmer of all time and an exercise fanatic, admitted to bouts of depression and suicide. These did not happen during the workouts or meets, but during quiet time.
Naomi Osaka, the tennis superstar, admitted that she was willing to take a $15,000 fine and drop out from the French Open rather than speak with the journalists about her bouts with depression.
The only thing I learned was that one had nothing to do with the other.
Can sports help to reduce stress and ease depression?
As a parent, it is a great idea to have your teen involved with sports. It promotes a healthy attitude, good self-esteem, and friendship with their teammates.
However it’s not all fun and games. While sports can provide a healthy physical and emotional outlet, they are not a surefire solution against developing mental health issues.
Sports involvement does not cure depression.
Toxic and/or too-intense sports experiences have also been found to contribute to depression and anxiety in young athletes. And you may not even realize the pressure and stress to compete that you are placing on your teen.
Remember that stress and depression go hand-in-hand and that virtually every teen has felt the pressure associated with stress.
Some helpful suggestions for parents of teen athletes
1. Open a dialogue with your teen.
Ask about the pressure and stress of balancing sports with other responsibilities.
2. Practice meditative techniques as a family.
These skills can last a lifetime, to help manage a lifetime of unpredictable stressors.
3. Ask your teen how, and why, they define winning and failing.
Is winning absolutely everything and the world would end should they lose?
Is coming in #3 out of 8, or lower, considered an absolute failure?
Enjoy the sports with your teen and be more than a cheering observer. Honest conversation is the best place to find out what is going on with your teen.
Do not be afraid to seek family counseling to develop positive ways to deal with stress and depression. Your teen will have the opportunity to speak their mind and feel heard and emotionally validated.
For more information, please browse the ABD blog. It is filled with lots of easy, actionable tips for coping with the difficult and stressful parts of life.
Please join us at our upcoming events:
5TH ANNUAL GOLF TOURNAMENT, a terrific day of sunshine, golf, and philanthropy.
All funds will go toward driving teen mental health awareness locally and nationally. This event is happening on Friday, August 20th at 11:00am.
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VIRTUAL GALA, an exciting evening full of entertainment, music, live speakers, virtual door prizes, a silent and live auction, and much more!
This event is happening on Sunday, November 21st at 4:00pm PT.
Any questions - please email me at [email protected].
President, a brighter day charity