By Ken Reed

The mind is the last frontier in sports. Since the beginning of competitive athletics, sports coaches and trainers have focused almost solely on the physical development of athletes. In the last couple decades, data analytics and technological advances have taken center stage when working with athletes. But athletes aren’t robots and they face a lot of the same pressures all of us do, plus additional pressures from having to perform with thousands of eyeballs watching their every move.

For the most part, the standard mental health advice coaches have traditionally offered athletes struggling with mental challenges is “Suck it up!”

But that’s gradually changing. In recent years, multiple athletes have opened up about their mental health struggles. Simone Biles, Kevin Love, DeMar DeRozan, McKayla Maroney and others have gone public with their mental and emotional challenges.

Hopefully, a new book will inspire more athletes to seek help. Julie Kliegman has written a powerful book on the mental health struggles of elite athletes called Mind Games.

“There’s been this movement happening of athletes speaking up about mental health and sports going on for quite a while now,” says Kliegman.
“I think it’s an important moment that we’re still in the middle of, but I wanted to chronicle what we have so far, and I wanted to make sure that we’re sustaining a conversation around [athletes and mental health] so that it doesn’t fall by the wayside.”
The book has something for all athletes, not just top-level college and pro athletes. In fact, there are powerful tidbits within that can help everyone, athlete or not.

“I didn’t want this book to be overly prescriptive … but I do believe that when you read about these stories, whether you’re an athlete or not, there’s something in here that applies to you, a technique they use, a way they felt or a way they convinced themselves to seek help,” says Kliegman.

To be clear, this isn’t a dry sports psychology textbook. It’s a book about athletes sharing honest thoughts and real emotions.

Here’s hoping this new book gets a wide audience.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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