By Ken Reed
Simone Biles is on the cover of Time magazine for being named “Athlete of the Year.” That’s not surprising. The surprise is why she received that honor.
Going into the Tokyo Olympic Games, Biles was a big favorite to win multiple gold medals. She didn’t do that. In fact, she barely participated in the Games.
Physically she was fine. But mentally she was struggling.
While performing high above the vault one day in Tokyo, Biles suddenly got a case of the “twisties,” a situation in which a gymnast loses his/her whereabouts during a gymnastics exercise. Shortly thereafter, Biles withdrew from her next four events. She told her teammates she wouldn’t be able to participate with them in the team event.
Impressively, Biles embraced her vulnerability in Tokyo and talked openly to a world-wide audience about her mental health struggles.
As Alice Park and Sean Gregory write in the Time cover story article, “Biles’ assuredness in speaking her truth and taking ownership of her fate offered permission for athletes and non-athletes alike to talk more openly about challenges they’d once kept to themselves.”
Biles, along with other elite athletes like Naomi Osaka, Michael Phelps, and Kevin Love, who publicly talked about their mental health struggles in recent months, demonstrated how athletes can be role models in ways beyond their athletic accomplishments in the athletic arena.
Olympic track star Allyson Felix believes Biles will be a stronger role model for young people like her daughter Camryn now that she’s put her mental health first.
“To see her choose herself, we’re going to see the effects of that for the next generation,” says Felix, who became the most decorated female track-and-field athlete of all time in Tokyo. “When thinking about role models for Cammy, wow, here is someone showing you can choose your mental health over what the world says is the most important thing.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered and got to know well, like Muhammad Ali, as well as his relationships with fellow sports journalists like Bob Costas and Howard Cosell.
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Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
Episode #15 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Psychology with Dr. Tim Rice. We discuss the growth of sports psychology at all levels, the positive impact that a number of high profile athletes have had by opening up, and the importance of everyone involved in sports caring for the whole athlete, mind and body.
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – Gary McCoy is a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations.
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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