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Sport

Depression in sports

13.06.2021
Prowadzący: Daria Abramowicz

Naomi Osaka withdrew from Roland Garros stating that she is having bouts of depression. Similarly to Andy Murray who went through such a tumultous period shortly after his injury. In the newest episode of Daria Abramowicz’s podcast you will be given the chance to experience their side of the story.

Sports psychologist and former competitive sailor will provide us with an insight into taking care of mental health and tackling psychological demands while being a full-time professional athlete.

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Prowadzący

Daria Abramowicz
Psycholog w sporcie i biznesie

Ukończyła psychologię ze specjalnością psychologia kliniczna na SWPS Uniwersytecie Humanistycznospołecznym w Warszawie oraz szkolenie I stopnia w Centrum Terapii Skoncentrowanej na Rozwiązaniach CTSR, a także studia podyplomowe z psychologii sportu na SWPS Uniwersytecie Humanistycznospołecznym w Warszawie. Na co dzień współpracuje m.in. z Igą Świątek. Więcej na www.dariaabramowicz.com.

Transkrypcja

D. ABRAMOWICZ: Naomi Osaka's statement and the decision concerning this year's Roland Garros is a tip of an iceberg in terms of the discussion about mental health in sports. There is a lot to be said and that's why I would like to talk a little bit about the big picture.

Hey everyone, this isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago. I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris. I never wanted to be a distraction. I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly, I would never trivialise mental health or use the term lightly. The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that. Anyone that knows me knows I’m introverted and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety. Though the tennis press has always been kind to me and I want to apologize especially to all the cool journalists whom I may have hurt. I’m not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media. I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can. So here in Paris, I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious so I thought it was best to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences. I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in Paris and I wanted to highlight that. I wrote privately to the tournaments apologising and saying that I would be more than happy to speak with them after the tournament as the Slams are intense. I’m gonna take some time away from the court now but when the time is right I really want to work with the tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans. Anyway, hope you’re all doing well and staying safe. Love you guys, I’ll see you when I see you.

I truly believe that this is the moment in which we could reach the turning point in the discussion about mental health in sports and as I mentioned before on many occasions not only in discussing mental training and sports psychology but mental health in sports. I think that Naomi Osaka’s statements and the whole situation and everything that’s going on Roland Garros this year 2021 is a chance to pursue the discussion, it’s a chance to open a new chapter into the discussion. So that’s why I’m trying to say these few words about it and to record this episode of my podcast in English. It’s actually the first episode in English, I don’t know if it’s going to be the last one or not. I just want to shed a little bit of light on what’s actually a key message that comes into the place in terms of – as I mentioned – Naomi Osaka’s statements, Grand Slam’s reaction and all the feedback that came into the place on media and social media regarding this matter. So, let’s just start from the beginning and from the first, I think, layer of the discussion which actually concerns press and media as kind of the source of external pressure that concerns athletes. Obviously, let’s just clarify: we will be talking about tennis players. So as far as you probably remember after Osaka’s statement and conclusion that the press is sometimes even hostile to the players and that the press conferences that players need to be doing after the matches whether it’s a win or loss are tough. I actually said on some occasion that probably the last thing that I would like to „have”, as a sports psychologist for my player after the match she’s lost, is to „have” to do the media. It’s kind of an obvious thing, let’s be honest. First thing is that while you’re performing your cognitive abilities, emotions, stress and tension levels are at their peak. Sometimes even the stress is skyrocketing and after the match, especially after a loss, there is this moment when everything just goes sometimes blank or when the turmoil is bigger and bigger and there’s a lot of thoughts, there’s a lot of emotions. Sometimes, obviously, there is a conclusion but for most cases, it’s not like it’s happening just right after the match. The press is sort of a mirror. There are some questions and sometimes these questions obviously are… Well, they might be different, let’s be honest. Obviously, I will talk about it later but we all need to be educating ourselves and for health professionals, mental health professionals would be great if they could be educating players, teams coaches, press, organisers, tennis and other sports stakeholders. But for most of the time, the questions concerning the performance are kind of urging players to confront with all the experiences that she or he had and it was just like a few minutes ago. Well, to be fair usually it’s like half an hour, one hour after the performance when the press is going on. And what’s the tough part here and sometimes the burden is that the player is in this very rough point with no filter and she or he feels sometimes that he is being judged because of the type of questions that are asked. But for most of the time, it’s just the thing that – as I know obviously that was the most common answer after Naomi’s statement – is that this nowadays is a part of the job and it’s hard to escape from that. Especially nowadays with top athletes, with high-performance sports and with the global sport – and tennis is one of the most global sports there are out there – is that building a relationship with the press, with media is the same part of the job as the business side of it is. So building relationships with partners, sponsors, tennis stakeholders. The first conclusion that’s coming into place after all of that is that that would be great if we would be focusing more on building healthy careers in terms of building healthy relationships, proper relationships with the press, athlete, coach, team and the media. There is obviously no golden rule here and there’s no simple solution to say: „We should be avoiding that” or „We should be going 100% into talking to media”. But nowadays… Let’s take a look at social media. It’s kind of a great platform for athletes to build their own perspective and to share their own narrative with the public, fans, to be able to present themselves and create and maintain their personal brand in terms of relationships – as I mentioned – with sponsors and partners. It’s also a good way to connect with people and a good way to promote the sport. So, these goals are very healthy and these goals are kind of… yes, part of the job. What we try to do is to educate. And for example, I had a situation a few days ago right after the – let’s say it in a quote – „Naomi’s case” when a player was asked a question and I felt that this question is sort of inappropriate in some ways. That was a question concerning mental health and I asked some other people to contact the media company and I tried to find the journalist and we tried to speak to the journalist very politely in a very assertive way and tried to educate and discuss why we think that the question might be a little bit different, why do we think that it might be inappropriate in terms of some boundaries. We got the feedback from the media that this is one of the very proper ways to build and maintain this healthy relationship between the player, team and the media and the press. And if someone’s asking me: „OK, so how can educate nowadays in terms of dealing with sort of external pressure that is coming from doing press or media?” I would say: „Let’s talk and let’s provide ourselves feedback and let’s discuss some ways of asking questions”. Obviously, one of the crucial things here would be being open for a discussion and not feel offended when, for example, a player or team would point out that the question might be a little bit inappropriate. So in terms of education and in terms of raising awareness on how could we change a little bit this narrative this relationship between players and media we obviously need all of the people involved on board. I mean here and I repeat that: players, teams, coaches, management, team’s sponsors sometimes partners, obviously tennis stakeholders as well. And obviously, it transfers to different sports as well. So I think in terms of this particular „Naomi Osaka’s case” that this is one of the crucial conclusions. But this whole situation and this whole experience, as I started this podcast, this episode brings a lot more discussion about mental health in sports. For me, this discussion starts with talking about the COVID effect – this one year or one year and a half. After tennis came back and other sports came back after lockdowns in this new COVID reality and this for me is the big picture here.

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